This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on several judicial nominees, including Fifth Circuit nominee Gregg Costa of Texas. With two Texans on the committee and the vacancy having been designated a judicial emergency by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, Sens. Cornyn and Cruz have the ability – and the responsibility – to make sure that vote isn't needlessly delayed by their GOP colleagues.
Costa sailed through his committee hearing last month, with no one expressing any concerns with his nomination. In fact, Sen. Cornyn cited Costa's nomination as a welcome area of agreement between the two parties. So why would we even be talking about a partisan-motivated delay?
Unfortunately, in the Obama era, needless delays of committee votes have become the GOP's standard operating procedure. Republicans have exercised the right of the minority party to have a committee vote delayed without cause in almost every instance for President Obama's judicial nominees, which is an unprecedented abuse of the rules. Until a month ago, they had allowed only five exceptions to this delaying tactic.
Notably, in a development Sens. Cornyn and Cruz should pay attention to, the number of exceptions doubled just a couple of weeks ago when Arizona Sens. Flake and McCain persuaded their colleagues not to delay a committee vote on six desperately needed district court nominees for a state overrun with judicial emergencies.
Like Arizona, Texas has an unusually acute need to have its vacancies filled. All three of the Fifth Circuit's vacancies are for seats slotted for Texas judges; that's a full third of the Lone Star State's allotted seats. All three of the court's vacancies have been formally designated as judicial emergencies, since the caseload is so high there. The seat to which Costa has been nominated has been vacant for more than two years.
If Costa doesn't get a committee vote as scheduled, that means a further two-week delay (since the Senate will be in recess next week). But why delay a consensus nominee whose service is badly needed? The senators from Texas are well placed, as members of the Judiciary Committee, to urge their GOP colleagues not to obstruct the scheduled vote.