In a preview of tactics that could be used to call for action on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee , three Senate Democrats tried and failed to force votes on lower court judicial nominees Tuesday afternoon.
“This is a glaring example where it’s easy to do your job, where it’s easy to move things forward, and all we face is obstruction,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.
Sens. Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland joined Schumer, the third highest-ranking Democrat, in asking for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session to consider nominees for federal court seats that remain vacant.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., objected to the requests, blocking the nominations from being considered.
“No effort to redefine what this is about will be successful,” McConnell said. “The issue before the Senate is: Has President Obama been treated fairly with regard to the confirmation of judges during his tenure in office? We are to a point where we know that so far during the Obama years he’s gotten 23 more judges than President [George W.] Bush got to this point.”
Schumer pushed back against that argument, contending that Obama was on a path to having fewer judges confirmed in his final two years in office than Bush. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts , 17 judges have been confirmed so far in the 114th Congress. During Bush’s final two years, the 110th Congress confirmed 68 judges.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., argued on the floor that Democrats were also slow to confirm judges when they controlled the Senate. He pointed to a Wyoming district court nominee who had to wait two years and did not get a vote on the Judiciary Committee.
“His life was in suspense for two years. That’s not right. Neither party should do that,” said Enzi. “But as long as the other side is saying that we’re holding things up, I got to point out that it’s not just a one-sided thing. So I hope that some of the criticism can stop and some of the work can be done.”
Democrats are not yet turning to floor tactics to force action on Merrick Garland, chief judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, whom Obama chose to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13. Republicans have vowed not to consider Garland’s nomination, drawing the Democratic ire. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said this month he was not ruling out procedural moves to attempt to force a vote on the nomination.