Bench Memos

Leahy’s Latest Filibuster

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy has responded to Arlen Specter’s call to break the “partisan gridlock” on judges as one might have expected him to — with a filibuster. In two prolix diatribes impersonating letters to Republican Senators, Leahy confirms what Specter alleged: the Democrats consider judicial confirmations to be a partisan battleground. In good lawyerly fashion Leahy makes his case in the alternative: Senate Democrats have done a darn good job moving nominees through the process; to the extent that Democrats have not done a good job, it is due to Republican political stunts (such as the President’s habit of nominating knuckleheads to the bench); and to the extent that Republican political stunts do not explain Democrats’ underperformance, it is only fair payback for what Republican Senators did to Bill Clinton’s nominees. Consider, for example, this sentence from Leahy’s April 23 letter to Republican Senators from the depleted Fourth Circuit:: “The reason there is an emergency vacancy on the Fourth Circuit from North Carolina is because the Republican majority refused to consider any of President’ Clinton’s nominees”.

An eight-year old “emergency”? Best not to call on Patrick Leahy in a pinch.

The last sentence of Leahy’s broadside (also dated April 23) addressed to “Republican Senators” tells you all you need to know about his plans. “During the remainder of this year, if you will work with me rather than pick fights, I am confident we can not only make progress but we will be in position to complete the restoration of the confirmation process during the next President’s administration and finally overcome years of partisan rancor”.

Once the Democrats reoccupy the White House, you see, Leahy will prove his “bipartisan” bona fides by waving President Obama’s judicial nominees right on through.