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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Senators Grassley and McConnell Make Misleading Statements about Judicial Confirmations

Prior to the Senate's long-overdue confirmation of Third Circuit nominee Patty Shwartz (who waited 550 days for a vote), Senator Grassley (R-IA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, made misleading statements about confirmations of judicial nominees.
Senator Grassley

Specifically, he cherry-picked the time period for confirmations in an attempt to evade the fact that President Obama has had far fewer judges confirmed than President George W. Bush at a comparable point in his presidency. He said:

"Today the Senate will consider the 10th judicial nomination this year. . . . At this point in 2005, and that was the beginning of President Bush’s second term, comparable for what we’re talking about for President Obama, the Senate had confirmed zero judicial nominees. Let me repeat, at this point in 2005, the Senate had confirmed not 10 , not 4, not even 1 judicial nominee, so that comes out to be zero."

Minority Leader McConnell
Following the vote, Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) repeated the statement almost verbatim:

"We just today confirmed the 10th judicial nomination of President Obama's second term. Today. The 10th judicial nomination of President Obama's second term. At this point in President Bush's second term, he got zero judges. None."

Ten confirmations compared with zero confirmations sounds bad. But 202 confirmations compared with 181 confirmations sounds even worse—and that's the actual number of Bush and Obama confirmations at a comparable point in their presidencies. That comes out to 21 fewer confirmations for Obama.

Grassley and McConnell’s larger point about fairness would be even stronger if the Senate had confirmed 96% of President Obama’s district court nominees—the percentage of President Bush’s district court nominees who had been confirmed at a comparable point. Instead, the Senate’s confirmed only 85% of President Obama’s nominees. Had Grassley, McConnell, and their colleagues allowed Obama to match Bush’s record on this front, the Senate would have confirmed another 19 judges, making the two presidents’ overall confirmation numbers almost exactly even.

As it happens, there are exactly 19 district court nominees pending in the Senate right now. Unfortunately, Republicans have delayed the 13 nominees on the Senate floor, who have been waiting for over a month, and 6 nominees who are pending in committee. Given the Senators’ evident concern with fairness, you would think that they would at least allow immediate votes for the 13 nominees pending on the floor, all but one of whom were reported out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously. You would think.

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