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Senate Reaches Deal on 14 Judicial Nominees

After daring Republicans to filibuster 17 judicial nominees in a row, Senate Democratic leaders said today they have gotten a commitment from GOP leaders to vote on 14 judicial nominations between now and May 7.

“The agreement is to do about two to three a week between now and then for the weeks that we are in [session],” said a Democratic leadership aide. The aide said leaders were working to lock in the deal as part of a unanimous consent agreement.

Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed motions to hold test votes on 17 district court nominees in order to highlight what Democrats say is Republican obstruction of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees. All 17 votes had been scheduled for this afternoon, because Democrats hoped the specter of filibustering 17 nominees would force Republicans to agree to votes.

“Our hope all along was that filing cloture was going to precipitate a deal and it did,” the aide said. Sixty votes are needed to invoke cloture, or beat back a filibuster.

Democrats have said the judicial vacancy rate has risen to crisis levels, resulting in crowded dockets and unnecessary delays.

According to White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, who spoke with reporters on a conference call Tuesday, Obama’s judicial nominees, on average, have waited four to five time as long to be confirmed after receiving Judiciary Committee approval as President George W. Bush’s nominees.

Republicans aides said they did not make any serious concessions and said they only agreed to return to the previous pace of judicial confirmations.

“We agreed to return to regular order,” one aide said, adding that Senate Democrats’ plan to move to a House-passed jobs bill coincides with what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been asking for.

On Tuesday, McConnell was dismissive of the Senate Democrats’ move on judges.

“We have a way of dealing with the judicial and other appointments in the Senate,” McConnell said. “This effort to have 17 cloture votes in a row is a manufactured crisis. This president has gotten more judges in three years than President Bush got in the last four. We approved 62 last year. We’ve approved seven so far this year.”

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