Yesterday, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced a scheduled hearing next week for four district court nominees, three of whom were nominated in July. Once again, he is skipping over Florida’s Mary Barzee Flores, who was nominated way back in February. But he’s skipping over nine other nominees, as well.
That’s because the fourth nominee at the hearing is from Iowa. Upon Grassley’s recommendation, President Obama nominated Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger for the Southern District of Iowa on September 15. Grassley has allowed her to leapfrog over:
- Mary Barzee Flores (Southern District of Florida), nominated February 26, 2015
- Inga Bernstein (Massachusetts), nominated July 30
- John Younge (Eastern District of Pennsylvania), nominated July 30
- Robert Colville (Western District of Pennsylvania), nominated July 30
- Susan Baxter (Western District of Pennsylvania), nominated July 30
- Marilyn Horan (Western District of Pennsylvania), nominated July 30
- Dax Lopez (Northern District of Georgia), nominated July 30
- Mary McElroy (Rhode Island), nominated September 8
- Stephanie Gallagher (Maryland), nominated September 8
- Clare Connors (Hawaii), nominated September 8
During a press conference at the National Press Club in April, 2015, Chairman Grassley stated that under his chairmanship, the Judiciary Committee would consider judicial nominees in the order they came:
I want you to know we take them up the way they come up to us. Particularly, that is true of judges, as an example. So the priority’s set by what we receive from the White House.
Other things being equal, few would complain when a chairman moves quickly to advance a nominee from their home state, within reasonable limits. Last year, for instance, then-Chairman Patrick Leahy scheduled a hearing for Vermont nominee Geoffrey Crawford ahead of three nominees who had been nominated less than three weeks before him, one of whom was for a circuit court. (He also skipped over three other nominees for whom their Republican home state senators were refusing to submit blue slips.) Leahy was also holding two hearings a month, so little time was lost.
But ten nominees are a lot to leapfrog, especially when nine of them were recommended and publicly endorsed by both home state senators, and when most were nominated long before Ebinger. Also relevant is that Grassley’s chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee has been marked with such partisanship. For instance, with the collaboration of his fellow Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania (who refused to turn in his blue slip for a nominee he'd publicly endorsed on the day he was nominated), Grassley was able to delay a hearing for Third Circuit nominee Phil Restrepo for seven months.
And a quick look at the list of skipped nominees shows that Pennsylvania is bearing the brunt of this delay, as well. Four of the skipped nominees would serve in that state. All four were recommended by both Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democratic Senator Bob Casey, and all were nominated way back in July. Three of them would serve in the Western District, where these seats have been vacant since 2013. Casey submitted his blue slip long ago, but Toomey is once again delaying, as he did with Restrepo.
Grassley is playing self-serving and partisan games with our nation’s nonpartisan judiciary, which is a problem for everyone. And since Toomey is collaborating with Grassley’s obstruction, the people of Pennsylvania are getting particularly hurt.