November 17th, 2009
02:20 PM ET
4 years ago

Senate Democrats to attempt break of GOP judicial filibuster

Washington (CNN) - Senate Democrats are set to hold a vote Tuesday on breaking a GOP filibuster against a district judge first nominated by President Barack Obama for a seat on the federal appeals court eight months ago.

Indiana Judge David Hamilton - Obama's first judicial nominee - was tapped to fill a vacancy on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March.

His nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, but leading Republicans have since prevented a final vote, arguing that Hamilton is too liberal.

Congressional Democrats have expressed growing unease over what they argue is a slow pace of both judicial nominations and confirmations since Obama took office. Obama's high profile nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was successful, but only six of the president's nominees have been approved so far for the federal bench.


Former President George W. Bush, in contrast, filled 28 vacancies on the bench during his first year in office. Twenty-seven of Bill Clinton's judicial nominees were approved during his first year in 1993; Ronald Reagan placed 42 judges on the federal bench back in 1981.

Senate Democrats have accused their Republican counterparts of obstructionism. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, recently called the slow pace of confirmations "outrageous."

There are currently 99 vacancies on the federal bench.

Republicans, for their part, have argued that they are exercising a legitimate oversight and confirmation function.

"I think (Judge Hamilton) is clearly a liberal activist," said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

"We do have a responsibility to analyze and scrutinize these nominations."

GOP strategist Ron Bonjean defended the GOP's use of the filibuster, which forces the majority to find 60 votes to pass a measure in the 100-member chamber.

"Senate Democrats did it too when they were in the minority," he told CNN. It's "just a tool that the minority uses to get more of what they want because they don't control the agenda and it's very hard to be heard."

Some Democrats are also increasingly critical of what they see as the slow pace of judicial nominations coming from the White House. The president has sent 27 nominees to the Senate so far, compared to George W. Bush's 64 by this point in the former president's first term.

"The president has been more deliberative in sending forward nominations," noted Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland. But, he acknowledged, "we would be well ahead of schedule ... if the Senate would have confirmed those approved" on the committee level.

Democrats note that the White House has been extremely cautious in vetting potential nominees in the wake of what critics called a botched nomination process for several potential administration officials.

Two high-ranking nominees for administration positions withdrew from consideration earlier this year after it was revealed that they had failed to pay certain taxes.


Filed under: GOP • Senate Democrats
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. donttreadonme

    Of course it was ok when the dems did it,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, What a suprise.

    November 17, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  2. George

    The party of NO. Will they ever say yes? Most of them probably forgot that word. Bring down America is all they care about. Right wing, please exit right and let America proceed.

    November 17, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  3. Capricorn7NC

    I wish the Democrats would just work towards getting rid of Lieberman, and any Democrats that are slowing progress. They have 60 technically, but Lieberman is not a Democrat anymore, he's not even an Independent. So he is one that is definitely not necessary, and they need to work on next year getting the Democrats they want so we can move forward. We need jobs, we need health care, we need judges to deal with issues, such as, what is going on in Kennett, Mo. That is a mess, and it is sad that the tapes have not been released yet. Wal-Mart always to be the center of a lot of racial issues. I know of a case in Smithfield, NC, where a Wal-Mart worker was being harassed and later assaulted in the parking lot. Wal-Mart would not release the tapes to the media in that case also. The worker has a charge now for simple assault, not because he defended himself, but because he spat on the man after he beat him up. The judge did say that the assault was racially motivated, but there was no hate crimes charge involved. We need to move forward with craziness like that going on in 2009.

    November 17, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  4. Jim

    The party of NO is alive and well while it undermines the democratic purpose.
    Why do they think they are the only ones allowed to appoint their cronies?

    November 17, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  5. Estamm

    When Bush was president, the Republicans kept demanding an 'up or down vote'. Then they threatened the 'nuclear option' if there were any filibusters. Now, apparently, filibusters are perfectly fine and reasonable. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    November 17, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  6. Republican'ts are so YESTERDAY

    Once again Republican'ts hold the nation hostage while trying to make political gain for their party. Party first . . . . America, not so much.

    November 17, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. Ted from Calif.

    Typical action for the Repugnant party!

    November 17, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. GI Joe

    Oh come on Reid – the Greedy Obstructionists won't like having to sit there and continue to to nothing but block everything that's being attempted FOR THE US. CITIZENS.

    They have C-street meetings, and TV appearances, and hate rallies, and girl-friends, etc.

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    November 17, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  9. Break em!

    Please Dems stop being wussies and break the GOPs. We are the majority for crying out loud - can we please start acting like it and stop caving in to these bullies?

    November 17, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  10. SteveO

    Bush and Clinton were before the era Glen Beck and Tea Parties where republicans refuse to participate in law-making because they are lead by extremists. When you vote republican, you're voting for extreme right-wing ideology.

    November 17, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  11. Laverne

    What the dems need to be doing is attempting to break a filibuster for healthcare reform! Now that is newsworthy!

    November 17, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  12. Mark

    On NPR yesterday they said that during Bush the Republicans got the Demacrats to agree to not filibuster judicial nominations. But now Sessions feels no longer compelled to abid by that agreement. Apparently it's still my way or the highway.

    November 17, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  13. gt

    to bad so sad ... a little pay back,,, leahey is a old , cranky , out touch , been there to long,politicain,,,,new blood both sides....

    November 17, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  14. Please

    I really love these republicans, always trying to be moral and yet they looked the other way when Bush put forth his nominations during recess of congress. Now they want to stop this? You only dig your own demise

    November 17, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
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