The Wall Street Journal – Opinion Journal goes after Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and Senate Democrats over judicial confirmations in an article (no subscription required) written for today’s paper.
In the deal brokered in April, Mr. Reid agreed to confirm three nominees in exchange for Republicans shelving plans to shut down the Senate over the issue. But as the deadline approached, Mr. Reid insisted he had always said he “couldn’t guarantee” the confirmations. In the end he confirmed only Steven Agee for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, kicking the other 10 pending appellate nominees into the summer.
So far this year the Senate has confirmed a grand total of two circuit court judges. That’s unprecedented in its stinginess, even for a Senate controlled by the party that isn’t also in the White House. In Bill Clinton’s last Congress, a Republican Senate confirmed 15 appellate nominees, and Democrats confirmed 17 in Ronald Reagan’s last two years.
In the latest excuse for doing nothing, Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy is invoking the “Thurmond rule.” Under a precedent ostensibly created by Republican Strom Thurmond in 1980, confirmations of new judges cease after July in a presidential election year. But the Thurmond rule is a Democratic urban myth. Mr. Thurmond made the statement in question at a September 1980 hearing when his committee voted out 10 Jimmy Carter nominees a mere six weeks before the election.
The somewhat scathing opinion piece goes on to state that the Majority Leader’s strategy is “clearly to leave as many vacancies as possible for President Obama.”
Senate Republicans have recently touted the strong consensus agreement within their caucus to get tougher on Democratic members over the issue of judges. Thus far, that talk has not led to any significant slow-down in the Senate’s work other than the usual filibuster attempts that the Minority party often uses (be they Republican or Democrat).
It will be interesting to watch over the next few weeks to see if articles such as this one motivate Senate Republicans to follow through with their threats to essentially shut the Senate down by stalling work on any bill that comes up until additional nominees are confirmed. Such a move would be risky because people throughout the country already have such a negative view of Congress and their inability to “get things done.”
This article does suggest, however, that voters within the Republican party often cite what type of judge a presidential candidate would choose as being one of the most important issues to them, even more important than the war in Iraq.
Update: It looks like Senate Republicans decided to follow through with their threats to shut the Senate down.