For those who have been watching Senator Chuck Grassley’s tenure as the new chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, his Supreme Court blockade wasn’t a big surprise. It was merely the culmination of a clear trend of obstruction of President Barack Obama’s nominees to all levels of the judiciary.
And now Grassley is going one step further: at the end of this upcoming week, on July 15, the Senator from Iowa will shut down the judicial nominating process this summer and likely through the election. Roll Call cited the Senator as saying it was due to the so-called “Thurmond Rule,” which supposedly says a President’s nominees should have a cut-off date in an election year, typically the summer.
But Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy actually continued holding hearings and votes for President George W. Bush’s nominees through late September of 2008. They confirmed 10 of Bush’s nominees in one day that month and there’s been an average of 18 lower court confirmations between the months of June and November over the past five presidential election years.
And Republicans in the past have argued such a rule doesn’t exist. Grassley called it “just plain bunk.” Of course, that happened in 2008 when a Republican was president. Now Grassley is using it as the justification for shutting down the process.
Outside of the usual political bickering over a made-up rule, this also adds to Grassley’s historic level of obstruction on all judicial appointments. Just 20 lower court nominees from President Obama have actually been confirmed by the Senate since Grassley’s chairmanship began. By mid-June in 2008, Senator Leahy and the Democratic-controlled Senate had confirmed 49.
As one would expect, that’s caused a considerable amount of problems for the proper functioning of the judicial branch of government. It means heavier caseloads for the judges already in place and a delay of justice for those in a backlogged system. After Grassley took over the Judiciary Committee, the number of judicial vacancies have nearly doubled, from 43 to 83. Meanwhile, Obama’s nominees are playing the waiting game. 54 judicial nominees are on Grassley’s plate, yet over half of them haven’t even gotten a hearing or vote scheduled.
Grassley and the rest of the Senate are partaking on an unusually long recess this summer – it starts on July 18 and ends on September 5. That is partially due to the scheduling of the national conventions. There will still be several weeks between that recess and their final recess before Election Day. With Grassley on this current track of obstruction, it’s sounding like they may as well just take the entire rest of the year off.
by Pat Rynard