Slow progress on confirmations


I criticized President Obama last week for being slow to make appointments, so it’s only fair to remind everyone what he’s up against: There is a good opportunity in the Senate’s confirmation, finally, of Judge Robert Bacharach to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

That’s because Bacharach was confirmed unanimously on Monday, 93 to 0. Where was the obstruction, you ask? A cloture vote in July failed 56 to 34, with three Republicans voting “present” and seven not voting. (Because 60 votes are needed for cloture, or to cut off debate, all that matters is the yes votes, so voting present and not voting are the same as voting no.) In fact, of the Republicans currently in the Senate, only Susan Collins, Maine, voted yes on cloture in July; everyone else was effectively against cloture then but voted for the nomination this week.

Even in July, Bacharach had been held up for far too long. He was appointed in January 2012 — and the seat he is finally about to fill has been open since June 2010.

This should not happen, especially to a nominee who faced no actual opposition.

I do think there is a fair case to be made for requiring a supermajority on lifetime judicial appointments — especially at the appellate-court level — to which the minority objects strongly. But when the minority abuses the process by filibustering judges it doesn’t even oppose, lawmakers are effectively asking for the elimination of the rules that give Senate minorities a chance to block some nominations. As Steve Benen wrote on the Maddow Blog: “It’s not just the Senate that failed miserably in this confirmation process; it’s the GOP minority that took the extraordinary step of filibustering a judge they wanted to confirm.”

Now, the good news is that Bacharach is the second appeals court nominee to be confirmed in the current Congress. The reforms the Senate enacted last month were intended to help particularly with nominations that are not controversial. It remains to be seen whether the Bacharach confirmation is part of a new trend of the Senate — and Republicans in particular — acting more responsibly, or whether further reform is needed on judicial nominations.

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics.

Special to The Washington Post.

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • The vibrancy of today’s American literature

    Sales at American book stores rose a measly 1 percent in 2013, according to trade accounts. It remains unclear whether that sluggishness — sales of ebooks have also tapered off — truly represents a further chipping away of the importance of books in our culture.

  • Kansas, the KKK and hate without end

    The news that a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan is suspected of shooting and killing three people near Jewish community centers in Kansas seems at first glance like a disparaged past flaring briefly into the present. Americans like to imagine that the KKK belongs to a long-gone South and anti-Semitism to a distant 20th century. Sadly, this better reflects a naive faith in the nation’s history of religious tolerance than the realities experienced by many religious minorities. Although the KKK has evolved and its membership has dwindled, it remains part of an American legacy of religious intolerance.

  • Who pays the most on Tax Day?

    Which taxpayers experience the greatest tax burden — and who pays the most in taxes?

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category