The Wall Street Journal seems to run on both sides of the issue when it comes to discussing GOP obstructionism. One week ago, their Washington Bureau Chief blasted obstructionism in the Senate regarding judicial nominees, and then on May 19 ran an editorial that endorses Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) ridiculous idea of reducing the number of judges in the D.C. Circuit.
Sen. Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and introduced legislation proposing this move. While it would add one seat each to the 2nd and 11th Circuits, it would reduce seats in the D.C. Circuit from 11 to 8. This seems innocuous enough, and the name of the bill is the “Court Efficiency Act,” which makes it sound as though they’re merely trying to equalize disparities between the D.C. Circuit and the 2nd and 11th Circuits.
The D.C. Circuit is pretty much second only to the Supreme Court, and judges there can wield a lot of power because of that. Furthermore, the D.C. Circuit hears a lot more cases involving regulation and national security than the other circuits. The GOP is likely using this bill not as a way to make the courts more efficient, but rather as a new blocking mechanism to keep Obama from putting more liberal judges on the bench of the country’s second-highest judicial authority.
Republicans have been filibustering Obama’s judicial nominees left and right. One example is Caitlin Halligan, who asked Obama to withdraw her nomination after every GOP senator except one refused to end the debate on her nomination. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the GOP accused Halligan of being an extremist because she once filed a lawsuit against a gun manufacturer. She was in limbo for over two years.
The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial on March 11, 2013 entitled “Obama’s Judicial Payback,” with a tag line saying, “Republicans adopt filibuster tactics that Democrats pioneered.” Part of this editorial discusses Halligan’s withdrawn nomination and claims, in its first paragraph, that this is the pattern Democrats started when George W. Bush was president. The entirety of that editorial boils down to, “They started it!”
While it’s true that President Bush’s nominees often got blocked, it’s also true that Obama’s nominees have waited an average of 116 days for a Senate hearing, while Bush’s nominees waited only 40 or so. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made excuses, saying that they’ve confirmed 10 of his nominees and that he’s been slow on the uptake when it comes to making nominations. His own colleague, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), said in a Senate report in 2008, “Lacking nominees for vacancies X, Y, and Z is no excuse for failing to hold hearings and votes on nominees to vacancies A, B, and C.” Hatch also said that he “strongly opposed all filibusters against judicial nominees, both Democrats and Republicans.”
Presidents from Carter all the way through to Obama have had judicial nominees blocked through various means, however, George W. Bush saw nearly 72% of his nominees ultimately confirmed, while as of mid-2010 Obama had seen a paltry 41% of his get confirmed, and that was just circuit court nominees. 43% of his district court nominees had been confirmed, compared to 91.3% of W.’s. And of all the judicial nominations Obama has made, a mere 43% had been confirmed, compared to 86.8% of W.’s.
So, for the Wall Street Journal to publish something that says Obama and his party are merely getting their own back for what Democrats did to George W. Bush is misleading at best, however, it’s arguably to be expected.
What’s not quite as expected is the way the Washington Bureau Chief, Gerald Seib, blasted the judicial vacancies as typical of Washington’s dysfunction. As of May 14, two of Obama’s nominees have been waiting almost 700 days for their confirmation hearings, and according to him, the majority of the blame should be laid at the door of the Senate and its obstructionism.
So which is it? Editorials are meant to be opinionated, not objective, that is true. They can make a publication confusing though, especially when they blame the Senate for obstructing judicial nominees in one piece, and say that the Democrats are getting theirs back for all the obstructionism they engaged in during the Bush years in another.
|Rika Christensen is an experienced writer and loves debating politics. Engage with her and see more of her work by following her on Facebook and Twitter, and check out her blog, They Need To Go.|