Limbo-land. That’s where so many federal nominees
find themselves these days. It’s a dilemma that virtually defines D.C.
gridlock. St. Louis lawyer Stephen Clark can tell you all about it, too. He
waited more than 300 days for confirmation to the federal bench before getting
an affirmative committee vote on Thursday to move to full Senate consideration.
The number of vacant positions in federal agencies
and the courts has grown into the hundreds. The problem is so severe that the
federal government resembles a football team without a running back, a wide
receiver and two linemen.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt has long been fed up with
this process, but now he’s proposing a way forward. Blunt and fellow Republican
James Lankford of Oklahoma, want to slash the number of hours of debate for
many nominees from 30 to two. Cabinet-level appointees would still face longer
The rules have allowed Democrats to slow down
Senate business and eat up days of precious floor time.
“This has been nothing more than obstruction for
the sake of obstruction, and it is outrageous,” Blunt said.
Dozens of appointees have been delayed,
undermining the president’s ability to fully staff the government.
Right now, the Blunt-Lankford proposal has no
Democratic backers. But the time to reform this process is overdue. Elections
have consequences, and Trump won. And consider this: Trump is more than halfway
through his term. Democrats say they’re looking forward to 2020 with confidence
that their nominee can win.
With this measure in place, Democrats could expect
their new president to have success at filling vacancies.
Yes, the Senate has a role to play here. That’s
what “advice and consent” is all about. But we are light years away from a time
when judicial nominees could run the confirmation gauntlet, from start to
finish, in less than a month. That’s what used to happen under Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.
Today, federal district courts have 121 vacancies
while circuit courts have 12. About 20 percent of the seats on the federal
bench sit vacant, and that undermines the swift execution of justice in this
may have to use the “nuclear” option to force a rules change to speed up the
process. That’s not ideal, but as Blunt says, presidents deserve the chance to
put their team in place.
Full editorial here