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What’s Different This Time? Republicans Push Unprecedented Blanket Filibuster

Nov 13, 2013



AEI Congressional Scholar Norm Ornstein: "We've Never Seen That Before. ... I Just Think It's Ridiculous." "In previous cases it was the minority party filibustering nominees they judged were not mainstream," Ornstein said. "There's no case even being made that these nominees aren't qualified. We've never seen that before. ... I just think it's ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous." [TPM, 11/12/13]

Because of obstruction from Senate Republicans, President Obama 's circuit and district court nominees face more than half a year wait time from nomination to confirmation. Of the previous five Presidents, President Obama is the only one for whom both the average and median wait time for district and circuit court nominees was more than half a year.  [Congressional Research Service, 5/2/13]

 Longest Wait Time: "President Obama is the only one of the five most recent Presidents for whom,  during his first term, both the average and median waiting time from nomination  to confirmation for circuit and district court nominees was greater than half a  calendar year (i.e., more than 182 days)." [Congressional Research Service, 5/2/13]

Increased Vacancy Rate: "President Obama is the only President during this period for whom the district court vacancy rate increased unaccompanied by the creation of new district court judgeships." [Congressional Research Service, 5/2/13]

Fewest Circuit Court Nominees Confirmed: "During the first terms of the five most recent Presidents (Reagan to Obama), the  30 confirmed Obama circuit court nominees were tied with 30 Clinton nominees as the fewest number of circuit nominees confirmed." [Congressional Research Service, 5/2/13]

Unopposed Nominees Forced to Wait 124.7 Days on Calendar Compared to 29.3 Days under GW Bush. "Table 4 shows that, for circuit court nominees who had zero nay votes cast against their nominations, that the average and median number of days from committee report to confirmation  was greatest during President Obama's first term (i.e., greatest during the 111th and 112th Congresses). Such nominees during President Obama's first term waited, on average, for 124.7 days on the Executive Calendar prior to being confirmed (compared with 16.9 days during President Clinton's first term and 29.3 days during President G.W. Bush's first term). The median number of days followed a similar pattern, ranging from a high of 130.5 days during President Obama's first term to a low of 5.5 days during President Clinton's first term." [Congressional Research Service, 5/2/13]


Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY): "It's in their best interests too. I would remind the Democrats, they may win the White House the next time, against the best efforts of people like Senator Dole and myself. Do they really want us to devolve into a situation where 41 members of the United States Senate in effect dictate to whoever the president is who may be put on a Circuit Court or who may be put on a Supreme Court seat." [Press Conference, 4/26/05]

Sen. Alexander (R-TN): "While I am a United States Senator, if a nominee comes to the floor for a judgeship by any President, Democrat or Republican, I will not participate in a filibuster. I will vote to cast an up-or-down vote on any nominee of any President. I think that is the right thing to do." [Floor Remarks, 11/12/03]

Sen. Cornyn (R-TX): "The bottom line has to be that the president has the right to get a vote, an up-or-down vote, on his nominees." [Baltimore Sun, 11/10/04]

Sen. Burr (R-NC): "But denying these patriotic Americans, of both parties, who seek to serve this country an up-or-down vote is simply not fair, and it certainly was not the intention of our Founding Fathers when they designed and created this very institution." [Floor Remarks, 4/20/05]


Sen. Chambliss (R-GA): "I cannot envision me not agreeing to allow somebody an up or down vote." [AP, 5/20/05]


Sen. Crapo (R-ID): "However, we continue to stress that the Constitution requires the Senate to hold up-or-down votes on all nominees. We will continue to work to ensure that is the case." [Press Release, 5/25/05]


Sen. Graham (R-SC): "One has to understand that there is a consequence to an election. When a President wins an election, that President has a right to send nominees over to the Senate for Federal courts. It has always been assumed that conservative people are going to pick conservative judges, and moderate and liberal people are going to be somewhere in the middle. That has worked for 200 years." [Floor Remarks, 5/24/05]


Sen. Isakson (R-GA):  "So, as one who is new to this Chamber but understands how important this debate is, I rise to repeat that I will vote to support a vote, up or down, on every nominee. Understanding that, were I in the minority party and the issues reversed, I would take exactly the same position because this document, our Constitution, does not equivocate. It designates that responsibility to the Senate." [Floor Remarks, 5/19/05]


Sen. Sessions (R-AL): "But they blocked an up-or-down vote by carrying out the filibuster rule, and I think that's a very, very grim thing.  It should not occur." [The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, 9/4/03]


Sen. Vitter (R-LA):  "We need to bring some fundamental fairness to this process. Sure, we need to have an important debate. Sure, we need to vet all the information. We can have differences of opinion. But then at the end of the day, we need to have resolution, we need to have an up-or-down vote. It is time to do that with all of these judicial nominees." [Floor Remarks, 5/19/05]



[Graphic via CRS, 5/2/13]