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Republicans Obstruct Judicial Nominees They Supported Last Year

The Senate Judiciary Committee finally met this morning, only the second business meeting Republicans have allowed to happen since before Thanksgiving. But that doesn't mean the Senate GOP's campaign of petty obstruction is over.

Because of the escalated GOP obstruction at the end of last year, there was an unusually high number of nominees scheduled for a committee vote this morning. In this diverse group of 29 nominees, 14 were women or people of color, and eight would fill vacancies that have been formally designated as judicial emergencies.

Unfortunately, the one Republican who bothered to show up this morning used the opportunity to demand that all 29 be held over a week.

Committee rules let senators "hold over" (i.e., delay) committee votes without explanation. This has been done in the past on occasion when a nominee is controversial or if senators need more time to evaluate the nominee. But since President Obama took office, committee Republicans have exercised this right for all but five of his judicial nominees, no matter the circumstances, no matter the nominee, no matter what.

Among the 29 nominees delayed for no reason this morning are nine nominees who were approved by the committee last year but were denied a confirmation vote due to GOP obstructionism. All nine had been approved by the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support, eight of them unanimously. All could and should have been confirmed weeks or even months ago; most had been waiting for a confirmation vote since October or earlier. Then as the congressional session ended, these nine were among the 55 nominees returned to the president, thereby forcing them to be renominated and sent through committee a second time.

The GOP's delaying of committee votes on nominees they already voted to approve is hardly responsible governance. It's just plain petty.

Another 15 of the nominees delayed today were scheduled for committee votes last year, but those votes were repeatedly delayed by the GOP. Ten of the nominees were scheduled for a vote on November 21, but Republicans refused to show up to the meeting and prevented a quorum. They were back on the agenda on December 12, along with five newly added nominees, but Republicans abused a procedural Senate rule to prevent the committee from even meeting. They finally allowed the committee to meet a week later, but demanded that all 15 nominees be held over.

And today, they were held over again, with no explanation.

This obstruction is petty, but it's not harmless. Americans need a federal court system runs smoothly and effectively. The Senate GOP is preventing that from happening, one delay at a time.