Senate Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions responded sharply Wednesday to Democratic charges that GOPers are slow-walking the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees.
In a floor statement, the Alabama Republican maintained that “Democrats’ systematic obstruction of judicial nominees during the Bush administration was unprecedented then and it is unmatched now.”
Sixteen of Obama’s judicial picks are lingering on the Senate calendar. Democrats, led by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (Vt.), have criticized Republicans for preventing the chamber from clearing those and other names. The Senate last considered a judicial nomination on Sept. 13, when Jane Stranch was confirmed 71-21 to serve on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
But Sessions said Democrats have performed far worse, citing the derailment of Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit in 2001 as a prime example of obstruction. Estrada’s failed nomination is a frequent GOP talking point when discussing the highly political confirmation process, and Sessions charged the Democrats’ work to kill his nomination and others during President George W. Bush’s tenure is the cause for so many lower court vacancies nationwide.
“Suffice it to say, Democrats have capitalized on their eight years of obstruction of outstanding, well-qualified Bush nominees by packing the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals with Obama-picked nominees,” Sessions said, citing the Richmond, Va.-based court as an example.
Sessions also complained Democrats were pushing activist judges. He pointed to some of Obama’s nominees, including University of California-Berkley law professor Goodwin Liu, who was noimated to join the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) joined the fray later, noting on the floor that the DISCLOSE Act being debated was drafted to reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case on campaign finance spending. Democrats have assailed the decision, which was handed down earlier this year under Bush-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts.
“When you look up judicial activism in a reference book, you would find the title Citizens United’,” she said. “This court went off the tracks.”