November 16, 2009
Despite a solid Democratic majority in the Senate, President Obama is on pace to set a record for the fewest judges confirmed during a president's first year in the White House.
So far, only six of Obama's nominees to the lower federal courts have won approval. By comparison, President George W. Bush had 28 judges confirmed in his first year in office, even though Democrats held a narrow majority for much of the year. President Clinton put 27 new judges on the bench in his first year.
The slow pace of approving judges has gotten little attention while Democrats and Republicans have fought over healthcare, the budget and the economic stimulus bill. In mid-summer, Obama and the Democrats also won confirmation for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
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Nationwide, there are 98 vacancies on the federal bench. Obama has 19 nominees who are awaiting votes in the Senate.
Obama's pace of nominating judges is also slower than previous presidents'.
Still, the obstructionism needs to cease. And so I am back to making a proposal that I made a couple of years ago an amendment to the Constitution that places a time limit on the Senates advice and consent function so as to bring judicial nominees to an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor within a reasonable time period. Such an amendment might read something like this one that I cobbled together as a proposal.
PROPOSED JUDICIAL CONFIRMATION AMENDMENT
Section 1 The power to nominate judges to the Supreme Court and all inferior federal courts shall be vested in the President of the United States.
Section 2 Upon the formal submission of the name of a nominee to a judgeship of any federal court to the United States Senate by the President, the Senate shall vote to confirm or not confirm the nominee within 180 days..
Section 3 The Senate may, with a three-fifths vote, extend the time for confirmation by 90 days in order to allow additional inquiry into the fitness of the candidate or in order to permit the Senate to deal with other legislative concerns. Such an extension shall be permitted only one time.
Section 4 The consent of the Senate shall deemed to be given if the Senate fails to reject the nominee within the 180 days mandated under Section 2 of this Article, or within 270 days in the event of an extension of the deadline under Section 3 of this Article.
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