Some of us complained about this several months ago, but Jonathan Bernstein notes today that the White House has been unconscionably derelict in filling empty federal judicial slots: the number of vacancies has grown over the last two months.
And no, this isn’t just about GOP obstructionism:
The important thing to remember here is that this is in one important respect unlike Democratic obstruction while George W. Bush was president: right now, and throughout this 111th Congress, every one of Barack Obama’s nominees probably has the votes to be confirmed. And I’m not talking about 50 votes plus Joe Biden; I’m talking about the Senate gold standard, 60 votes, enough to beat a filibuster and invoke cloture. Of course, that hasn’t been tested on the remaining nominees, but I’m confident that there’s no one nominated who would lose the votes of Snowe and Collins…in fact, I think there’s a solid bloc of somewhere between 62 and 65 votes for cloture for any scandal-free liberal nominee. I believe that’s true across the board; it’s certainly true of most of the nominees. That doesn’t mean that GOP obstruction isn’t a factor, but it’s a factor that Harry Reid, Pat Leahy, and Barack Obama could easily overcome if they decided to make it a top priority. There’s still plenty of time to confirm every single one of the current nominees if Democrats really want to do that and are willing to be as aggressive in their use of Senate rules on offense as the Republicans have (quite legitimately, for the most part, in my view) in their attempts to obstruct. They won’t do it, however, unless Barack Obama sends clear signals that he wants it done. And if they don’t, well, who knows what’s going to happen in the 112th Senate? So, Mr. President, are you going to step up on this one?
Do we even need to ask this last question? I’m far less optimistic than Bernstein is on the obstruction question, but you can’t test it unless you’ve got nominees.
Once again, this is where Obama has just decided that he doesn’t care about his most loyal supporters. Judgeships are a way of showing people you care about their concerns without the need for constant compromising — and it’s not as if there is a shortage of outstanding candidates. Why do you think George W. Bush made such a big deal about stem-cell research? Or was out there every day with “up or down vote” demands for Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown?
Obama was right to compromise on the health care bill: he needed the votes. But he doesn’t need to do that here. Or with Elizabeth Warren. Or with Dawn Johnsen. Or with the Solicitor General’s position on Connecticut v. AEP. Or with recess appointments. Or with Afghanistan. Or with all kinds of things.
This is the sort of steady drip, drip, drip that does a wonderful job in deflating your most loyal supporters. Oh yes, we’ll come out to vote — but it’s harder to get people to give money, to walk precincts, to make phone calls, to do the kind of basic blocking and tackling that you need in a very challenging electoral environment.
I can’t help but think that this is a Rahm Emanuel production. His only political tactic is to tell liberals to STFU, and he keeps playing it regardless of the circumstances. Sometimes it is right, but not always. He’s got a hammer, and every political problem looks like a nail.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln’s campaign featured marchers billing themselves as the “wide-awakes.” Obama seems set on establishing the Chloroform Brigade.