Southwick’s nomination is the first test of how the new Democrat-controlled Congress will approach controversial appointees now that the political parties’ roles have been reversed. At Southwick’s May 10 hearing, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he wants to avoid “total resistance” to judicial nominations, vowing not to block all Republican nominees. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also promised to move judicial nominations at a speedy pace.
Leahy and Reid have been pressed on Southwick by the GOP Senate leadership, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (K.Y.) and Minority Whip Trent Lott (Miss.) who have been pressuring lawmakers to approve the nominee.
How the small-scale confrontation plays out could reveal the extent to which the majority Democrats want to appease their traditional interest group allies at the risk of appearing obstructionist and failing to fill crucial judicial vacancies.