Bench Memos

More on the Cloture Votes

I am entertained by the fact that the White House and Senate Democrats can keep a straight face while claiming that Republicans are obstructing judicial nominees.  As Senator Lee explains over at the Hill:

It is a matter of historical record that beginning in 2001, Senate Democrats dramatically changed the confirmation process. Throughout the Bush administration, Democrats actively sought to block numerous judicial nominees, forcing more than 30 cloture votes as Republicans tried to end persistent Democratic filibuster efforts.  

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), voted against cloture a record-setting 27 times. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), cast 26 votes to filibuster Bush nominees and, in 2003, defiantly declared: “Yes, we are blocking judges by filibuster. That is part of the hallowed process around here.”  

Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who now claims to have been “respectful of President Bush’s appointments,” repeatedly joined with Democratic colleagues in attempting to filibuster judicial confirmations, including seven separate votes against cloture for the nomination of Miguel Estrada — one of the nation’s leading appellate lawyers — to the D.C. Circuit.  

Not to be outdone, Reid took virtually every opportunity to block Bush nominees, voting against cloture on 26 separate occasions. In his view there was no amount of time — “not a number in the universe” — that would be adequate for debate on the filibustered nominees.

During his brief time in the Senate, President Obama himself played a key role in the Democratic filibuster campaign, helping lead the effort to block the nomination of Leslie Southwick to the Fifth Circuit. Then-Senator Obama also joined Democrat colleagues in voting to filibuster the judicial nominations of Priscilla Owen, William Pryor, Janice Rogers Brown, and Samuel Alito.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has capitulated on his cloture threat, and struck a deal with Republicans to return to what would have likely happened without the cloture petition. If beltway Democrats are really interested in making it easier for judicial nominees to get through the confirmation process, it might help if they acknowledged that they are the ones who weaponized the process in the first place.   

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