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Dramatic Disparity in Record of Senate Action on Judicial Nominees for Clinton, Bush, and Obama in First Two Years

As we reach the two-year mark of his presidency, President Barack Obama has faced unprecedented obstruction of his judicial nominees in the U.S. Senate and has fared far worse than his immediate predecessors both in having nominees approved and in relieving the federal courts of the burden of “judicial emergencies.”

With the clock ticking in the current lame-duck session of Congress, AFJ has released a report entitled, Judicial Nominations in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations: Which One of These is Not Like the Others? The conclusions are stark:
  • The number of vacancies in the federal judiciary has nearly doubled, from 55 to 107, since President Obama took office.

  • Officially designated “judicial emergencies” have risen from 20 to 50, affecting courts in 30 states.

  • Both Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had large numbers of vacancies and emergencies in their administrations, but were able to significantly reduce them by the end of their second year in office. In contrast, due to Republican tactics of obstruction during the first two years of the Obama Administration, both vacancies and emergencies have dramatically increased since January 2009. The federal courts are in worse shape than when the Obama term started. The opposite was true for Clinton and Bush.

  • Precedent exists to use the lame duck session to approve large numbers of judicial nominees. In the 2002 lame-duck Congress, a closely divided Senate confirmed 20 of President Bush’s judges, all but one on a voice vote.

AFJ believes there is no excuse for not using the remainder of this congressional term to vote on President Obama’s nominees to the federal bench. The Senate’s constitutional obligation to fully staff the courts does not stop just because the calendar is crowded and time is short. The final votes on all the nominees currently being held hostage by Republican obstruction could be dealt with expeditiously, exactly as they were in 2002 for President Bush’s nominees in similar circumstances. The ability of our courts to deliver justice to the American people is at stake, and there is no more time to waste.

A copy of the report can be found here: http://www.afj.org/judicial-selection/obama-judicial-nominations-obstruction-vs-recent-presidents.pdf.