Among the many things not getting done in Washington these days, filling up the bench of the Judicial branch is still near the top of the list. This backlog of judicial nominees has been going on for at least a decade now, with some ebbs and flows in high profile cases. The D.C. Circuit Court – one of the most influential on national matters and a frequent launching point for Supreme Court justices – currently has four of its eleven seats vacant. Have we reached a confirmation crisis? Jeffrey Toobin certainly seems to think so.
During the last Bush Administration, Republican Senators grew so frustrated with what they called Democratic obstruction of judicial nominees that they threatened to change Senate rules to limit filibusters on judges. In 2005, the bipartisan “Gang of Fourteen” Senators announced a truce. Democrats agreed to allow votes on Bush’s nominees in “all but extraordinary circumstances,” and they kept to the deal. Bush’s second-term appointees (including two to the Supreme Court) proceeded without obstruction. At least technically, the Gang of Fourteen compromise is still in effect. But Republicans have essentially ignored it—as the Halligan filibuster demonstrated.