Editorials and Opinion
Editorial: Fixing the filibuster; Our view: Senate Democrats finally pull the trigger on the 'nuclear option' for judicial nominees, and the country will be the better for it (Baltimore Sun, 11/21/13)
"Reining in the filibuster was necessary because its over-use had gotten ridiculous — the three latest victims, the Obama administration picks for the D.C. Court of Appeals, were simply the last straw for a problem that has been years in the making.... During Barack Obama's time in office, there have been dozens. The problem has been felt most keenly in the judiciary where there are now 75 open district court seats, an 11 percent vacancy rate, and far higher than the vacancy rate during the equivalent moment in either the second terms of Bill Clinton or Mr. Bush.
Republicans can point out that Mr. Obama has gotten most of his nominees confirmed overall, but the judicial filibusters have been particularly outrageous. And the GOP's excuse — that the nation's second most powerful court and one that reviews much complex federal regulation didn't need three of its 11 judgeships filled — is disingenuous at best. What's really been going on here is that conservatives don't want the clout of judiciary's remaining GOP appointees to be diluted.... Refusing to even allow a vote on judicial nominees as qualified as those Mr. Obama had recently offered for the D.C. appeals court was what caused the real damage, not the Democrats' decision to use the only option they had to set things right."
Editorial: Filibuster reform was long overdue (Battle Creek Enquirer [MI], 11/21/13)
"Pushed again to the brink by a recalcitrant GOP minority bent on blocking three nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Majority Leader Harry Reid said he’d had enough.... Predictably, Republicans accused the majority leader of a power grab and, laughably, trying to divert attention away from the troubled rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.... McConnell is dead wrong, but he was right when he characterized the vote as a “sad day in the history of the Senate,” when a procedure designed to temper the power of the majority instead created a tyrannical minority whose prime objective is to ensure that nothing is accomplished."
The DC Circuit Interview Chuck Grassley Didn't Have (People For blog, 11/20/13)
"Republicans claim that the DC Circuit's caseload is too low to warrant filling three of its eleven seats. Their caseload argument is both wrong and fundamentally illegitimate.... Senator Grassley knows that this fight isn't about caseloads or efficiency. It's about nullification."
Things Are Getting Ugly in the Senate (Bloomberg News, 11/20/13)
Albert R. Hunt, Opinion: "Republicans have blocked a number of nominees over the last few months, including Congressman Mel Watt of North Carolina to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency and three appointees to the U.S. Court of Appeals, claiming it isn't necessary to fill the court vacancies. These are out of the ordinary tactics. Rarely is a sitting member of Congress, from either party, blocked from an appointment and substantive complaints haven't been raised against the judicial nominations. ... Yesterday, according to a Democratic Senator and other Capitol Hill sources, Republicans put out private feelers about a deal."
CNN Buys Into Right-Wing Myths About D.C. Circuit And Filibuster Reform (Media Matters for America, 11/20/13)
Sergio Munoz: "First, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is not "evenly split," as right-wing media frequently allege. ... Of these senior judges, five are Republican nominees, which results in the actual D.C. Circuit balance being heavily tilted away from Democratic nominees, nine judges to five."
Harry Reid Getting Itchy Nuclear Trigger Finger (New York Magazine, 11/20/13)
Jonathan Chait: "Senators of both parties have previously used filibusters to block nominees they found especially objectionable. What Senate Republicans have done this year is a difference of degree that amounts to a difference of kind: They have declared their intent to impose permanent vacancies in Obama’s administration and in three swing seats in the crucial D.C. Circuit Court. ... Ideally, the Senate would find some mechanism that would be strong enough to allow the minority to block unusually extreme judges from the bench, but weak enough to prevent the minority from issuing a total blockade on even qualified judges. ... But the trend in American government has been that power does not get shared, and instead flows to whichever party has the will to seize it. Senate Republicans have seized new powers by imposing a judicial blockade on the D.C. Circuit, and the only available Democratic response appears to be seizing back more power still."
Protect the Constitution; end the filibuster (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 11/20/13)
Jay Bookman: "By trying to deny Obama the power to appoint judges to the D.C. court -- any judges at all -- McConnell and many of his fellow Republicans are attempting to nullify the power that is expressly granted to the president in the Constitution."
Senate to D.C. Circuit Nominees: It's Not You, It's Me (Huffington Post, 11/20/13)
Peg Perl, Staff Counsel, Colorado Ethics Watch: "The number of seats on the D.C. Circuit is set by legislation based on the recommendations of the nonpartisan Judicial Conference of the United States -- Chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. By nominating individuals to fill seats already vacant on that court, President Obama (like President Bush before him who had four nominees confirmed to fill vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit) is merely fulfilling his constitutional duty ... 10 percent of federal judgeships across the country sit vacant. Each empty seat on the bench means slower justice for millions of American citizens and businesses who rely on our judicial system ... A diverse bench simply improves the quality of justice and the public's trust of the institution. Yet, the list of diverse nominees subject to Senate filibusters and delay has just grown by three names."
Nuke 'Em, Harry: Why Democrats Should Kill the Filibuster (Politico, 11/20/13)
William Yeomans: "In the hands of a Republican minority intent on frustrating President Barack Obama’s agenda, the filibuster has grown from a sparingly invoked procedural brake into a tool of open obstruction that Republicans use to slow or stop every judicial or executive branch nominee.... only 76 percent of the president’s judicial nominees have been confirmed, compared with more than 90 percent for Bush at the same point in his second term. Even that 76 percent sounds awfully good in view of recent events. Republicans have now vowed to block all confirmations to the D.C. Circuit Court, which has three vacancies among its 11 authorized judgeships. They argue that the court doesn’t need any more judges, even though the workload is roughly the same as when they enthusiastically put Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on that court."
Harry Reid Prepares to Go "Nuclear" on the Judicial Filibuster (Daily Beast, 11/20/13)
Jamelle Bouie: "Senate Republicans do not have specific objections to President Obama’s nominees, who fall within the judicial mainstream. Instead, to preserve the court’s conservative majority, they have issued a blanket objection to anyone Obama nominates to the D.C. Circuit, despite his right as president to fill judicial vacancies. It’s a position that, left unchecked, could extend to blocking all nominees to the federal bench, up to and including the Supreme Court."
Launch the 'Nuke,' Harry! (Huffington Post, 11/20/13)
Chris Weigant: "The Republicans seem to have come up with a rather novel idea of how American government is supposed to operate. They say they're just "preserving the balance of power" which exists on the circuit court in question. Adding judges a Democrat nominates would change this balance of power, so Republicans are just going to stop anyone who gets nominated -- no matter how qualified. This is ridiculous, at least to anyone who has actually read the Constitution ... The problem for the Republicans now, though, is that it's not much of a threat because we're already at that point. Nothing moves forward now without 60 votes, so how is the threat "we'll filibuster everything" going to change the status quo at all?"
EDITORIAL: Our View: Stop the stalling; reform the filibuster (Charlotte Observer [NC] , 11/20/13)
"This week, Republicans blocked the nomination of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Wilkins was the third blocked nominee in three weeks for that court, which hears many cases involving important regulatory issues. Republicans say that the court, which has 11 seats, doesn’t need any more than its current eight judges because of a lighter workload. But in a September Senate hearing, Tenth Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich – the chair of the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Judicial Resources – testified that the D.C. Court of Appeals has had a “relatively steady” workload over the past decade. (Tymkovich, by the way, was a nominee of President George W. Bush.)
What’s really behind the blocking on the D.C. court? Republicans don’t want Obama to tilt its ideological balance with his three nominees."
Column: The Republican court-unpacking scheme (Oneida Daily Dispatch [NY], 11/20/13)
Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts: "last month, Cruz and other Senate Republicans staged a filibuster that blocked her nomination. This is an outrage.... the rejection of Millett, and three other Obama nominees for the D.C. Circuit, goes far beyond the legitimate exercise of minority rights.
Elections have consequences. And for all presidents, one of their most lasting legacies is their appointments to the federal courts. Obama won a second term last year, clearly and decisively. Yet in this critical area, Republicans are trying to deny the public will, to overturn the results of that election. That’s un-American and unprecedented.... Sen. Charles Grassley even accuses Obama of “court-packing,” as if filling vacant seats is somehow illegitimate. This is simply a lie. ... If anyone is guilty of “court-packing,” it’s the Republicans. Or “court-unpacking,” to be precise, since they’re reducing the number of Democratic judges to obtain favorable rulings."
Editorial | End GOP's endless Senate filibusters (Courier-Journal [KY] , 11/20/13)
"The official government shutdown may have ended but the gridlock continues in Washington thanks to Senate Republicans who have now blocked three of three candidates President Barack Obama had nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Yes, three nominees in a row to the court considered the most powerful in the nation after the U.S. Supreme Court have been blocked by filibuster, the chief tool Republicans have used at unprecedented levels to obstruct progress in Congress.... No matter that no one has raised any major objections to Judge Wilkins — or to two previous nominees ...Or that Judge Wilkins is African American and the two other nominees are women, apppointments that would bring diversity to the federal appeals court. No, Republicans have dug in out of sheer partisan obstruction ... to the court that considers important challenges to federal laws and regulations. ... Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican leader, gloated, using his irrelevant opposition to the Affordable Care Act as an excuse."
First Thoughts: Extraordinary (NBC News, 11/19/13)
By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Jessica Taylor: "Folks, we’ve moved beyond the Miguel Estrada and Janice Rogers Brown judicial battles during the Bush years, when Senate Democrats filibustered those nominations due to concerns about ideology and qualifications. Now Senate Republicans are filibustering Obama’s judicial picks not based on concerns about ideology or qualifications -- but rather Obama’s ability to make ANY pick to fill the D.C. Circuit. ... In the past, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has said that he’d resort to filibusters if “extraordinary conditions” exist. But the only thing that’s extraordinary here is the level of obstruction Senate Republicans are waging against up-or-down votes."
What would President Truman say about this Congress? (The White House, 11/19/13)
Deputy Senior Advisor David Simas: "the 113th Congress' obstruction is reaching new levels.... Things the 113th Congress could vote on right now. ... Confirm three well-qualified judges to fill long-standing vacancies on the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Cornelia Pillard, Robert Wilkins and Patricia Millett were all selected by the President as nominees for this critical court. Once again, one by one, Senate Republicans blocked each nomination. ...It’s time for this obstruction to come to an end, and for Republicans in Congress to start doing their jobs:"
Don’t Fear the End of the Filibuster For Judicial Nominees (Lawyers, Gun$ and Money, 11/19/13)
Scott Lemieux: "since with the filibuster Bush not only got people like Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen confirmed to the circuit courts but Sam Alito, the most reactionary Supreme Court justice since James McReynolds, confirmed to the Supreme Court it’s not obvious to me how the filibuster is moderating Republican appointments. Republican presidents will appoint awful judges with or without a filibuster. Which, as long as Democrats can do the same, is how it should be because elections matter and governments should be able to govern. There’s no reason to maintain the filibuster."
Senator Chuck Grassley Falsely Claims GOP Has Only Blocked Four Obama Judicial Nominees (Think Progress, 11/19/13)
Josh Israel: "Grassley and other minority Republicans have filibustered confirmation of three nominees to the D.C. Circuit ... Grassley and other Republicans have used the same rules to block other nominees including Goodwin Liu and Caitlin Halligan ... he also conveniently ignores that many other nominees have not even gotten to cloture votes, thanks to other procedural mechanisms for holding up nominees."
Sen. Harry Reid leaning toward "nuclear option" on court vacancies (Arkansas Times, 11/19/13)
David Ramsey: "Remember when Rep. Tom Cotton ludicrously said that President Barack Obama was "court packing" by fulfilling his constitutional obligation to nominate judges to fill vacancies on the federal bench, in this case the three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit? Cotton proposed a bill that would have actually been court-packing in reverse, reducing the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit because he didn't like the idea of Obama appointments to the powerful court. Cotton's bill to change the size of the court went nowhere, but in practice, the result has been the same. Republicans have used the filibuster to block all nominations to fill the vacancies, leaving the court with just eight judges."
Senate Republicans: All Obama Judges Are Bad (New York Magazine, 11/19/13)
Jonathan Chait: "Republicans have also escalated the conflict by adapting a novel tactic that essentially nullifies the results of the presidential election. They have expressed opposition not to the credentials or ideology of a particular Obama nominee, but have instead argued that Obama has no right to alter the existing ideological balance of the courts.... Previous judicial fights have revolved around the question: How personally or ideologically unacceptable must a judge be to merit rejection? Republicans are now arguing that Obama’s nominating judges to vacancies on the court is illegitimate per se.... the proposed nuclear-option remedy is less extreme than the power demanded by Senate Republicans. ... Conservatives have accused Obama of “packing” the courts, yet the term applies to their own behavior. ... Packing meant changing the court’s size in the middle of the game to benefit his agenda. Senate Republicans are doing the same thing"
What is Harry Reid Waiting For? (New York Times, 11/19/13)
Jess Wegman; The Editorial Page Editor's Blog: "The claim, which Republicans struggle to make with a straight face, is that the D.C. Circuit has enough judges as it is, and that it would be a waste of resources to add any more. (Needless to say this rationale was not a concern when a Republican was in the White House.) They also argue that Mr. Obama’s picks would tilt the court to the left, as though that weren’t a president’s prerogative.... Democrats are deluding themselves if they believe that protecting the filibuster now means that it will be protected for them in the future.... Democrats are deluding themselves if they believe that protecting the filibuster now means that it will be protected for them in the future."
Mark Mellman: Public opinion and the filibuster (The Hill, 11/19/13)
"While the filibuster has been used by both parties, the current crop of Senate Republicans has practiced filibuster abuse at unprecedented levels.... So while the country appears to have embraced filibuster reform, on any given issue, either party may be able to construct majority support for this anti-majoritarian tactic.
But senators cannot escape from the disrepute they earn from its frequent use."
Going Nuclear (Booman Tribune, 11/19/13)
BooMan: "There are 19 total vacancies, all of which would be filled within a year.... Just keep in mind that Senior Judges do hear cases. Their presence on the court helps determine the ideological makeup of the court. That's one reason why the Republicans have fought so hard against the three DC Circuit judges."
A Call To Democrats To Stop Sitting Back On This Business With Judges (Esquire, 11/19/13)
Charles P. Pierce: "It seems that the Republicans are bound and determined not to allow the president to fill the empty seats on the D.C. Court of Appeals.... One of the reasons we elect presidents is because we approve en masse of that president's philosophy toward the law. This means we elect him so that he can appoint federal judges who will be sympathetic to that philosophy to the federal bench. For going on 40 years, we have seen a long march of conservatism in the federal judiciary, especially at the appellate level,... It is not a great stretch to argue that this president was elected (twice) at least partly to reverse the results of that long march. That he is not being allowed to fulfill that part of his mandate does not merely obviate the power of the popularly elected majority in the Senate, it obviates the stated wishes of the entire nation by obviating the power of the popularly elected president of the United States."
The Senate reform we should get (Washington Post, 11/19/13)
Jonathan Bernstein: "Republicans have overreached (again) by blocking three spots on the critical D.C. Circuit Court. Unlike defeating by filibuster those nominees to whom they object most strongly, which did not draw nuclear threats when Republicans did it over the last four years, this one, if it continues, really does effectively nullify the election of Barack Obama and the Democratic senators. Therefore Democrats have little choice but to do something about it. ... What I wish would happen — although I absolutely do not expect it — would be a deal that would preserve but limit filibusters, especially on nominations."