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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

American Idle: Once Again GOP Senators Perfect Art of Stalling

169 days after she was nominated, the Senate confirmed Judge Barbara Milano Keenan to a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 99-0 today. Republicans raised no issues or concerns with Judge Keenan's record, but despite the fact that she was reported out of committee unopposed, they forced a cloture vote on her confirmation.

Even more shocking than the amount of time it took for Keenan to be confirmed, nearly six months, is the fact that no opposition was ever voiced. This is the 17th time that the Senate has filibustered one of President Obama’s nominees, and is part of a pattern of partisan obstruction.

This is the epitome of Republican Senators using procedural rules to obstruct uncontroversial nominees for no reason other than pure partisan politics. In 1991 Judge Keenan was elected to the Supreme Court of Virginia, where she has remained since.

Nominations to the federal courts of appeal are significant for obvious reasons, but the Fourth Circuit is unique. The Court has heard a significant number of cases involving the scope of executive power. And, a large number of civil rights claims related to race, gender, and employment discrimination are litigated within its districts. Although the Court has long been considered a bastion of ultraconservatism, after a series of departures it is now more evenly split. Thus, single additions to the bench—including Judge Keenan’s—will very likely impact the Court’s overall jurisprudential leanings.