The Providence Journal is reporting that the United States Senate might continue to ignore the over-worked and back-logged US District Court in Rhode Island by not having an up-or-down vote on President Obama’s nominee to the Court: John (“Jack”) J. McConnell (who has widespread, bipartisan support for his nomination).
Senate Republicans have permitted several votes in recent days to confirm non-controversial nominees to the federal courts. But they have shown no sign of allowing floor votes on four nominees, including McConnell.
With time running out on the lame-duck legislative session, meanwhile, the majority Democrats have not taken the time-consuming steps needed to force confirmation votes for McConnell and the other controversial nominees.
The Associated Press reported Monday that Republican and Democratic Senate leaders had made an agreement to allow confirmation votes on at least 19 non-controversial nominations to the judiciary –– 10 of whom have already been confirmed without dissent. The offices of Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would not confirm the AP report.
AP, citing unnamed sources, said the Democrats agreed in return not to seek votes on McConnell and three others: Goodwin Liu, a prominent California law school professor nominated to the San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and two federal district court prospects, Louis B. Butler Jr. of Wisconsin and Edward Chen of California.
That echoes the situation last summer, when the Senate passed a consensus package of President Obama’s nominations –– including several to the judiciary –– as Congress rushed to its August adjournment. McConnell, Liu, Butler and Chen were excluded from the deal, so their nominations were sent back to the White House. Mr. Obama renominated them in September. If they fail to win Senate confirmation in what time remains of this Congress, the rules require that their nominations again be returned to the president. None of the men can then be considered for the federal bench without being renominated by Mr. Obama –– for a third time –– in the new Congress.
“We are continuing to work on an agreement with Republicans and hope to confirm as many of the president’s nominations as possible before the end of the year,” said Regan Lachapelle, a spokeswoman for Reid. Don Stewart, spokesman for the Republican leader, would not comment on the AP report.
The fact that Republican Senators are publicly threatening to filibuster a District Court nominee and that Democratic Senators can’t deliver this nominee while controlling huge majorities of both houses of Congress for the last two years is tragic in more ways than one.