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Conservatives make the worst kind of history

Both Texas Senators Cornyn and Hutchinson continue to deny justice to millions of Americans.

Senate Republicans have filibustered confirmation of Robert Bacharach, the nominee for the empty seat on the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Robert Bacharach passed out of the Judiciary Committee with “virtually unanimous support.” Oklahoma senators (representing Bacharach’s home state) Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe strongly supported Bacharach, with Inhofe stating that it was “’awkward’ not to vote for ‘one of the best nominees’”, adding that he simply “didn’t want to break a 20-year precedent.”

Senator Cornyn has long been opposed to a minority party blocking the nomination of a qualified, consensus nominee.

Apparently that position changed yesterday as conservatives made the worst kind of history.

Senate Republicans invoked the unwritten Thurmond Rule, blocking the nomination because they hoped that Mitt Romney would be elected and would nominate his own (hopefully more conservative) judges. As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary CommitteePatrick Leahy was quick to point out, Bacharach is an uncontroversial nomination. 

Today’s debate and vote on the partisan filibuster of the Oklahoma judicial nominee, who has had the support of the Republican Senators from Oklahoma since President Obama nominated him six months ago, is another example of how extreme Senate Republicans have gone in their efforts to obstruct judicial confirmations.If they succeed in their partisan filibuster, it will be another first for them.Never before has the Senate filibustered and refused to vote on a judicial nominee with such strong bipartisan support, who was voted out of the Judiciary Committee with virtually unanimous support.

Their partisan efforts to shutdown Senate confirmations of qualified judicial nominees who have bipartisan support do not help the American people. This is a shortsighted policy at a time when the judicial vacancy rate remains more than twice what it was at this point in the first term of President Bush. 

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The American people need to understand that Senate Republicans are stalling and filibustering judicial nominees supported by their home state Republican Senators. 

What they are doing now is a first.  As I have noted, no circuit court nominee reported with the bipartisan support of the Judiciary Committee has ever been successfully filibustered.  They are denying votes also to William Kayatta, a universally respected nominee from Maine supported by his home state Republican Senators, and Richard Taranto, whose nomination to the Federal Circuit received virtually unanimous support. 

It is time for reasonable and independent thinking Senators to end this needless and damaging filibuster on Judge Bacharach’s nomination and confirm him.  At a time when judicial vacancies remained historically high for three years, with 40 more vacancies and 40 fewer confirmations than at this point in President Bush’s first term, the Senate Republican leadership should reconsider its obstruction and work with us to fill these longstanding judicial vacancies in order to help the American people.

Coburn called Bacharach the “best appellate court nominee that he'd seen in his eight years in the Senate” and said that he would push for Bacharach to be nominated again if Mitt Romney becomes president. Previously, Sen. Cornyn called the obstruction of judges “unconstitutional”, because the Senate cannot "enhance its own power in such a manner without offending the Constitution" and Sen. Hutchinson stated that “[Filibustering judges] amend[s] the Constitution without going through the proper processes”. The seat that Robert Bacharach was nominated to has been empty for over two years; nearly one in eleven federal judgeships are empty, and ten nominees waiting for consideration in the Senate would fill vacancies that are considered judicial emergencies.

Both Texas Senators Cornyn and Hutchinson refused to vote for this qualified nominee and continue to deny justice to millions of Americans. Currently, Texas has among the most judicial vacancies in the country. As of this moment, there are no nominees pending to fill seats that have been open for as long as three and a half years.