November 17th, 2009
02:20 PM ET
10 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. Silence Dogoode

    I think that any judge Obama appoints should be treated the way the democrats treated Bork and Pickering.....

    If Obama is vetting his picks as careful as he has done withhis staff and czars...one of his appointees should never be approved.

    Can't wait to hear the liberal whining about this.....

    November 17, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  2. Marc

    Meanwhile, let's just remember, there are 99 VACANCIES on the federal bench, and since it is unlikely that the President nominates anyone that those obstructionists find acceptable, those vacancies will last for a while...

    November 17, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  3. PALIN/BACHMANN 2012!!!

    David Hamilton ruled to keep our God out of our government. Any Republican senator who votes to approve him is going down with Charlie Christ.

    November 17, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  4. George W Bush = Worst President Ever

    Sessions was not supported for his own judicial nomination by his own party. He is a typical wingnut who has no faith in the constitution or our judicial system.

    November 17, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  5. LYNETTE IN CA

    2010 cannot come fast enough to get rid of these "nothing but no" repugs in both the Senate and the House.

    November 17, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  6. George W Bush = Worst President Ever

    Sessions likes to make up charges that he can't substantiate. Sounds like Fox, after all, who knows what is best for the average Americans than an Australian billionaire.

    November 17, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  7. I am the Not-So-Great and Powerless Wizard of Rush

    Remember when the Republics were screaming that Bush's judicial picks weren't given an up or down vote?

    The hypocrisy is thick, blantant and embarrassing.

    November 17, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  8. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    typical GOP ploy...... PARTY FIRST; COUNTRY LAST

    November 17, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  9. sensible Cape Coral Fl

    As the Republicans critizise the slow pace of progress, are they also prepared to take their share of the blame for this lack of progress? Somehow I doubt that as it would mean that they are THINKING.
    With the surfeit of Conservative judges from the GWB administration, a few Liberal judges are needed to balance the courts. It's thought not knee jerk reactions that's needed.

    November 17, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  10. single mom

    Awwww! They did it to Bush. I notice CNN says Obama has sent 27 compared to Bush's 64 while not mentioning how long it took to confirm. Granted, tit-for-tat is for kindergartners but really, what did they expect?

    November 17, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  11. George W Bush = Worst President Ever

    Better figure out how to stop the efforts of worthless Joe Lieberman.

    November 17, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  12. Mojo

    I'll repeat the same mantra the Bushites used when Bush was in office.

    The judge should receive an up or down vote in the senate.

    November 17, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  13. JW

    The Dems are bad, but the Republicans have become the do-nothing, stand-in-the-way, whine about everything, double standard, sex scandal ridden, corporate prostitute party. Hopefully Americans are able to see through the finger pointing and vote some independents in to get the country back on track.

    November 17, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  14. anthony a wilson

    She's a nice looking woman. She shouldn't feel offended by a good picture.

    November 17, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  15. Ben in Texas

    Judge Hamilton has the full approval of the Repugnant delegation from his state. He is very middle-of-the-road. This is another example of the Party of No exercising it's prime function: obstructionism.

    This is the same Party of No who screamed "up or down vote" and threatened to use the "nuclear option", i.e., killing the right to filibuster, when Democrats blocked extreme right wing judges appointed by the war criminal George W. Bush. This is the same Party of No that got Democrats to agree not to filibuster judicial appointments under Bush. They now say they are not bound by that agreement.

    Of course they're not bound by that agreement. They are the Party of No Honor.

    November 17, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  16. Jake

    Wasn't it just a few years ago that Republicans were complaining about fillibusters by Democrats-talking about how we should just have an "up or down" vote or something. They even tried to change the law so that you couldn't fillibuster. My-my-my how things have changed. See, I bet Republicans are glad they don't always get their short-sighted ways?

    November 17, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  17. Bubble of Sanity

    He's having more success than the last Bush had with an obstructionist congress. For those of you with short memories, the Democratic minority in the senate blocked dozens of Bush appointees and there was an ensuing backlog of untried cases throughout the country.

    Why is this suddenly news? It's been happening for at least nine years. The filibuster was a wonderful thing to CNN even two years ago. Why is it such a bad boy now?

    November 17, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  18. clr

    Well.... geepers.... now the dumbicraps know how the republicans felt when they dumbicraps stalled on every single piece of legislation for the last 2 years of Bush's Presidency... They forgot that Bush was elected by a large margin in the second term (no close Gore thing that time) – but they still blocked everything coming through – whether it was good for the country or not – which is why we are in the economic mess we are in now). What goes around... comes around... duh....

    November 17, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  19. The REAL republican motto: "In Fear We Trust"

    When the democrats did this in response to Bush'swell documented overt attempts to politicize the judiciary, the republicans screamed all day long about it. The exact same congressmen now mumbling about "due process" were the ones proposing the nuclear option to ram their right wing extremists down our throats. Hypocrites.

    Obama has attempted to appoint center left candidates, as opposed to Bush who appointed well known right wing extremists. He is also taking care to find candidates supported by their home state republicans. Fat lot of good that is doing – once again, the party of "No" is proving that don't gives a rat's patoot about the country. All they care about is a chance to burnish their tin foil hat party credentials.

    November 17, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  20. Jeff

    The party of obstruction is at it again. Maybe the Dem's should bring out the nuclear option. What happened to the Republitard mantra of " Give them an up or down vote." Losers... they are a dying breed.

    November 17, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  21. Carl Justus

    I am sick and tired of the GOP standing in the way of change along with the times.
    Gop stands for many things except good government. Lately it stands for GRANDSTAND, OPPOSE, AND PROCASTINATE when it comes to making health care a right instead of a privilege for those who work for governments, big corporations and the rich.
    I have voted in the past for rerpublicans, but there are no more Chaffee's, Hatfields, and Bakers except Olympia Snow and I do not see any chance of anyone like them being able to run unless they have enough money to finance their own campaign and even then the so called "conservative party that has increased the national debt by 9,5 TRILLION BY THE LAST THREE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTS is out of touch with reality.

    November 17, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. voter

    Break the fillibuster and vote to approve the judge to the circuit court of appeals. Why do the dems keep trying to appease the thugs? The thugs did not care about bipartisianship when they were in charge of the congress. Heck they ram through Bush tax cuts through reconciliation. What a disaster that plan has been to the economy?

    November 17, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. shirley-atl

    Once again the party of "NO" shows what they are about when elected to do the people's business. Does anyone really expect this current bunch of repubs to ever do the right thing? I certainly don't!

    November 17, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  24. kd

    Same old story with the Republicans. Obstructionists to the end.

    The Dems had to swallow hard to pass Bush's poor choices but at least they moved the process forward. We'll be paying for Bush's picks for years to come.

    November 17, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  25. J.P.

    What filibuster?
    The statists have a 60-Senator, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

    Stop whining.

    November 17, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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