Senate Democrats are taking action to highlight and end Republicans' three-year efforts to keep our nation's courtrooms empty. Specifically, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has just announced that he will file cloture on all of the 17 district court nominations currently pending on the floor, most of which have been languishing for more than three months.
CQ reports that Republicans are tying their ongoing obstruction to their opposition to President Obama's recess appointments earlier this year.
[Sen. Dick] Durbin is assuming that enough Republicans will break ranks and help deliver the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and clear the way for votes on confirming the judicial nominees. But Republicans said the outcome of such cloture votes is not assured, predicting that the minority will oppose the motions to protest recess appointments Obama made in January.
In reality, it could not be clearer that there is no connection between Republican obstruction and their opposition to the recess appointments. This unprincipled opposition has been going on since the start of the Obama Administration. At the end of 2011, before the recess appointments, President Obama's confirmed district court nominees had waited for a floor vote more than four times longer on average than President Bush's. That is the case today, as well. The unjustified delays in 2009-2011 were hardly caused by recess appointments made in 2012.
No, the obstruction is part of a deeply cynical effort to keep as many courtrooms empty for as long as possible in the hopes of having a Republican president fill them in 2013. With a vacancy crisis worse than anything we've seen in over 35 years, the American people need fully functioning courts.