Editorials and Opinion
Republicans leaning toward keeping the filibuster reform they said destroyed the Senate (Daily Kos, 12/05/14)
Joan McCarter: "Retaining the weaker standard would likely have scant impact on President Barack Obama's nominees in his final two years in office. Republicans controlling the Senate could simply choose to not hold votes on nominations they oppose and would not need filibusters, or procedural delays, to derail them.
In the longer term, keeping the relaxed rule would make it harder for Democrats to block nominations should Republicans win the White House and retain control of the Senate in the 2016 elections. It's all about 2016."
Editorial: Winners and losers: Mike Riley, wolf deaths (Statesman Journal [OR], 12/04/14)
"LOSER: Killing wolves. Research conducted through Washington State University found that wolf kills in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming actually increased the number of sheep and cattle killed by wolves the following year. "The reason appears to be that killing the alpha male or female in a pack frees the other wolves to start breeding. And breeding pairs trying to feed pups are more likely to kill livestock than individual wolves," the Associated Press said, quoting wildlife ecology professor Rob Wielgus. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife paid for the study, which was published in the journal PLOS One."
Waiting Game: Lame-Duck Dilemma: More Than 130 Obama Nominees Still Await Senate Action (Bloomberg News, 12/03/14)
Greg Giroux: "Judicial vacancies are a perennial cause of concern for court-watchers as caseloads clog federal dockets....Even some Republicans aren't happy with the backlog that's been building in the judicial ranks. “... vital resource needs include the appointment of an adequate number of judges to keep current on pending cases,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in his annual year-end report in 2012, ... “I urge the Executive and Legislative Branches to act diligently in nominating and confirming highly qualified candidates” to fill judicial vacancies, he said."
Editorial: A somber record for the Florida panther (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 12/02/14)
"Drivers needs to be alert in panther territory. But more importantly, public officials should show renewed support for conservation efforts to preserve the state's most endangered symbol. One worthy idea is the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which aims to create a sustainable path for wildlife stretching from the Everglades to Georgia and Alabama .... if people don't support conservation efforts, future generations might be able to see the Florida panther only on the special license plate of a car."
COMMENTARY: Middle District Judge nominee still awaiting confirmation (Progressive Pulse [NC], 12/02/14)
Chavi Khanna Koneru: "delay tactics do seem to be a ploy to avoid confirming President Obama’s nominees. There has been a long pattern of Republicans attempting to prevent the President from confirming judges ... delay tactics do seem to be a ploy to avoid confirming President Obama’s nominees. There has been a long pattern of Republicans attempting to prevent the President from confirming judges"
Editorial | Starving the beast (Courier-Journal [KY] , 12/01/14)
"Ruling in a case involving alleged violations by the Frasure Creek Mining Co., Judge Shepherd found that state cuts over the past 10 years have “drastically and adversely affected the ability of the cabinet to do its job in implementing the Clean Water Act.”...Even more troubling is that it took an outside group of citizens’ advocates to uncover the problems and bring them to the state’s attention. Groups including Appalachian Voices, Waterkeeper Alliance and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth found some coal companies falsified reports they are required to file with regulators.
Prodded to act, state regulators ... did little to investigate the actual environmental harm, then attempted to enter into a modest settlement ... . Judge Shepherd rejected the settlement as one that sends the message that “cheating pays.” He also rejected the attempt of the state to cut the outside citizens’ groups out of its final settlement with Frasure Creek Mining, ordering they be included."
EDITORIAL: Emissions pact a good first step (Virginian-Pilot, 12/01/14)
"The climate change agreement last month between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping is a good start toward bending the trajectory of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions."
EDITORIAL: Japan Is Back in the Hunt for Whales (New York Times, 11/30/14)
"Claiming purely “scientific” motives, Japan’s political leaders are cynically planning to resume whale hunting in the Southern Ocean, despite the International Court of Justice finding that the Japanese government regularly violated its obligations under the international ban against commercial whaling off Antarctica."
EDITORIAL: Coal's costs keep adding up (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 11/30/14)
"Judge Phillip J. Shepherd laid bare the charade that is Kentucky's enforcement of coal industry compliance with the Clean Water Act. The judge described a state agency that barely even goes through the motions of enforcing the law.... The massive violations were discovered by citizens who threatened to sue. The cabinet agreed to a consent decree under which Frasure Creek would pay $310,000. The cabinet also fought — and lost — all the way to the state Supreme Court to exclude citizens from any involvement in deciding the case. Shepherd ruled the penalties were too small .... coal. It's not cheap, though. The costs are high — they just get pushed onto someone else, the disabled or dead miners, or Kentuckians who depend on water, ruined by surface mining, that flows from the mountains across our state."
GOP has a golden opportunity during the lame duck session (Herald Sun [NC] , 11/29/14)
Rob Schofield: "One of the first indicators will be what happens with a slew of pending and stalled nominations to serve on the federal courts.... At her confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee just before the election, Biggs received a big “thumbs up” from senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr. While welcome and encouraging, Burr’s positive, “trains-on-time” stance on the Biggs nomination was enough to leave a sense of profound confusion given that it comes on the heels of an almost 18-month-long blockade of another Obama nominee – federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker,"
Thanksgiving and federal judicial appointments (The Hill, 11/28/14)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "the United States appellate and district courts should be thankful that a number of the 90 lower court vacancies which the judiciary has experienced for almost five years have finally been filled. ... The judiciary should be grateful that the White House has nominated, and the Senate has approved, two exceptional Supreme Court Justices, 53 excellent appellate judges, and 235 fine district judges.
Obama has assiduously sought the advice and support of Democratic and Republican elected officers before actual nominations and has tendered nominees of balanced temperament, who are intelligent, diligent, independent and ethical, as well as diverse vis-à-vis ethnicity, gender and ideology.... However, the promising signs will only materialize into confirmations, if Democrats and Republicans work cooperatively in the remainder of the 113th Congress’s second session for the good of the courts and the country."
Editorial: Florida, nation cannot ignore climate change (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 11/28/14)
"Rising sea levels, drought, and the impacts that extreme weather will bring to farmland and fisheries will threaten the world's food and water supply — creating more instability in the most volatile parts of the world. The United States and the world have a responsibility to those future generations to address climate change before the costs only continue to grow."
LETTER: Senate should act on judicial vacancies now, not later (Erie Times-News [PA], 11/25/14)
Brenda Barron: "Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, along with their colleagues in the Senate, must make confirmation of judicial nominees a priority in the upcoming "lame duck" session....Republican obstructionism has delayed or derailed many of President Obama's judicial nominations. The resulting shortage of judges means our court system is now struggling to keep up with the growing backlog of cases."
Editorial: Fix the Senate (Boston Globe, 11/24/14)
"Increasingly, senators have been using their role of “advice and consent” to delay and refuse, not just controversial nominees, but everyone. Republicans are trying to run out the clock on Obama’s term.
This is abuse of power. Nominees, the vast majority of whom have put other professional responsibilities on hold to serve their country, deserve consideration. Now that the Senate is set to change hands, leaders should agree to hold up-or-down votes as soon as possible on these nominees.... Another change that should be made is the removal of anonymous holds....When Democrats were faced with near-universal obstructionism on their nominees, they changed the Senate rules to avoid filibusters and get more quickly to an up-or-down vote. Thanks to the so-called “nuclear option,” it only takes 51 senators to confirm a presidential nominee... Presidential nominees deserve consideration, and the public deserves a government that is able to break through gridlock."
U.S. Senate needs to confirm federal judges (Denver Post [CO] , 11/23/14)
Amanda Gonzalez letter to the editor: "Colorado’s senators have gone back to Washington for a “lame duck” session, and one area where bipartisan cooperation might be possible is the confirmation of federal judge nominees. More than 60 federal judgeships are vacant, and 16 nominations are sitting waiting for Senate votes — mostly with bipartisan approvals by the Judiciary Committee.... We deserve a fully staffed judiciary to make sure justice is served. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet should remain in Washington until the Senate clears its calendar of pending judicial nominees."
Make sure federal courts fully staffed (Editor's Inbox) ( Mason City Globe Gazette [IA], 11/23/14)
Dean Genth: "I urge Sen. Chuck Grassley to use his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee to make sure our federal courts are fully staffed.
Federal judges hear cases that directly affect the lives of everyday Americans, including cases addressing clean air and water,... Many of the pending nominees are the result of bipartisan agreement."
Letter: Terms up for Begich but work left to be done (Juneau Empire [AK] , 11/20/14)
John Dunker: "there is just enough time for the Senate to confirm the outstanding judicial nominations to our federal courts, so essential to our system of checks and balances (if the Dems have the will). Sadly, this is not likely to be bipartisan so expect loud howling, but the result of the Democratic majority’s inaction now would likely be two more years of partisan Republican blocking of judicial nominee confirmations, a growing number of vacant seats on the court bench, currently 64, and lengthening docket backlogs. Inaction would then be the Senate Democrats’ legacy as well as the Republicans,’ a legacy that could extend far beyond the next two years in its effect on how the courts help shape our society."
Senate Republicans Use Lame Duck To Block Their Own Judicial Nominees (Huffington Post, 11/18/14)
Jennifer Bendery: "Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) delayed Senate Judiciary Committee action by a week on nine judicial nominees for no evident reason. That group includes three Texas nominees with strong support from Texas Sens. John Cornyn (R) and Ted Cruz (R). Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is refusing to submit his so-called "blue slip" to advance a Utah judicial nominee he's previously praised as "well known and highly regarded." And Republicans are forcing four Georgia judicial nominees with strong support from Georgia's GOP senators to each wait an extra day before they can get confirmed."
Congress should fill judicial vacancies (Miami Herald, 11/18/14)
Letter to the Editor by Mark Ferrulo, Progress Florida: "Currently, there are more than 60 judicial openings across the federal court system, and many of these vacancies have languished for months, or even years, because of partisan gridlock and obstruction. All across the country, these vacancies are seriously hurting citizens’ ability to have their day in court. The lame-duck session in Washington provides senators, including Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, a chance to address this growing crisis. At least two dozen nominees are or will soon be awaiting confirmation votes. Senators need to act quickly and in a bipartisan spirit to make the most of the session by filling the judicial vacancies with qualified nominees."
EDITORIAL: President, Senate must begin filling federal court vacancies, including 2 in WNY (Buffalo News [NY], 11/17/14)
"[T]here is a very real problem in filling vacancies to the lower federal courts. The issue is most pressing here in Western New York....Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has recommended that the president nominate Denise O’Donnell, a former U.S. attorney, to replace Skretny and Lawrence J. Vilardo, one of Western New York’s top litigators, to replace Arcara. The president has yet to nominate either one. Both are respected by Democrats and Republicans and, as such, deserve to be nominated and then confirmed. There are 62 vacancies on the federal courts, with 36 nominees pending, and 28 future vacancies, with two nominees pending. The vacancies only worsen delays in the federal court system. The president has a duty to nominate qualified people for the vacancies, and the Senate has a duty to investigate and vote on the nominees. Talk of Supreme Court vacancies is an argument for another day. The president and the Senate need to deal with the immediate problem in the lower courts."
PD Editorial: A bold step on climate change (Press Democrat [CA] , 11/16/14)
"In short, human activity is contributing to climate change, and we are approaching the point of no return. Against that backdrop, the landmark agreement between the United States and China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a major breakthrough. The antagonistic reaction from coal-country Republicans who will lead the next Congress is an even larger disappointment."
Mercury News editorial: China climate pact at least sets back deniers (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 11/15/14)
"But at its core, the pact shows that the Chinese government accepts the scientifically proven impact of carbon emissions on the rapidly warming climate and wishes to be seen as doing something about it. This is in contrast to a newly empowered Republican Congress, however, which considers it all a joke."
The Register's Editorial: Nation needs Grassley's leadership (Des Moines Register [IA], 11/15/14)
"One of the Judiciary Committee's most important duties is to recommend whether the Senate should give its blessing to the president's nominees to the federal judiciary. The confirmation process has become mired in partisan rancor ....
As a member of the committee and as a rank-and-file senator, Grassley has done his part to perpetuate if not exaggerate those confirmation wars. In his new role as chairman, Grassley should work to end them. That would be a major accomplishment in the interest of improving the reputation of the Senate and the functioning of the federal courts. ... Every nominee deserves an up-or-down vote from the Senate with a simple majority prevailing. ... Senators should respect the president's constitutional appointment power by confirming even nominees they may disagree with. Grassley has a mixed record on that point. In the past he voted for nominees whose politics he opposed because he agreed with the principle of presidential prerogative. But in recent years he has become increasingly partisan, casting votes against otherwise highly qualified nominees he considers too liberal.... It is time for these destructive confirmation wars to end.
Now that he is to become chairman of the committee that acts as a gatekeeper for judicial nominees, Grassley has the opportunity to make that happen, and he should."
Saturday's Letters: ELECTION MANDATE (Florida Times-Union, 11/14/14)
Damien Filer: "Until the remaining vacancies are filled — and there are more than 60 of them — the shortage of judges will mean a backlog of cases that makes access to justice difficult for many Americans. If our Florida senators want to show they are in Washington to get the job done, then moving quickly to fill the remaining court vacancies is a good start. The Senate should remain in session until it has cleared its calendar of pending judicial nominees."
EDITORIAL: Grassley is a good fit for Judiciary (Gazette [Cedar Rapids, IA], 11/14/14)
"We’re confident that Grassley will treat judicial appointments and other nominees fairly, and resist pressure to delay and obstruct purely for political ends. We don’t want a “rubber stamp,” but we also don’t want competent, qualified nominees to be sacrificed to political brinkmanship."
Filling the federal court vacancies (The Hill, 11/14/14)
Prof. Carl Tobias: "Obama has actually enjoyed remarkable success in nominating and confirming very qualified mainstream candidates while shattering all records for diversity vis-à-vis ethnicity, gender and sexual preference. Because Republicans and Democrats agree that filling the 60 federal court vacancies with qualified consensus jurists is essential to delivering justice, they should promptly cooperate to propose and appoint excellent judges."
Editorial: U.S.-China climate deal offers hope (Dallas Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, 11/14/14)
"Last week’s historic U.S.-China agreement on carbon emissions could be a turning point in the world’s climate change strategy if both sides live up to their promises. ...For the United States, China’s pledges dampen a long-standing excuse for congressional inaction."
Editorial: Promising move on climate change but what will Republicans say now? (Lexington Herald-Leader [KY], 11/14/14)
"Now that China has committed to producing enough zero-emissions energy by 2030 to power the entire United States, Sen. Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans will have to find a new excuse for doing nothing about climate change.... Longer term, it also makes sense that the world's largest country wants to avert massive droughts, floods, rising sea levels, superstorms and the resulting conflicts, suffering, chaos and costs. If anything is shocking, it's the lack of urgency in the U.S. Congress, especially among Republicans, to protect our descendants from climate disaster."