WASHINGTON -- The first effort to break through what White House counsel Bob Bauer called a cold war political standoff over judicial confirmations will take place this week, as Senate Democrats will re-consider a batch of stalled nominees.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to send at least eleven nominations to the floor, likely this Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), meanwhile, has expressed his desire to hold a vote on one or a few of those nominees before the caucus leaves for its upcoming retreat.
"We should expect to see anywhere from one to a handful of votes on judicial nominees end of the week or early next week," a Senate Democratic leadership aide said.
The idea, explained the aide, is to test whether an informal agreement between Republicans and Democrats to either filibuster less or expedite the confirmation process has had any tangible impact. The nominees being re-considered by the Judiciary Committee were categorized as non-controversial holdovers from the last Senate session. Democratic lawmakers want to clear those confirmations through unanimous consent in the Senate before turning their sights to judicial nominees that were passed through committee last session by party-line vote.
Whether Republicans in the chamber will sign off on those plans could prove to be a telling indication of whether more comity has been brought to the new Congress. On Tuesday, Bauer made a rare public plea for lawmakers to speed up the confirmation process.
"If it is a war," he said at a conference organized by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, "it is a cold and not a hot war ... Nominees left languishing on the floor for as much as hundreds of days without a vote, are basically ignored, not because ... of perceived deficiencies in their record or shortcomings as a potential jurists. It is a quiet blow to the process. But it is a heavy blow nonetheless. No shouting on the floor, just nothing on the floor. It is as if ... it did not matter at all. But of course it matters a great deal: to the nominees, to the courts to which they were nominated to serve, and to the parties to those courts."
As blunt a statement as it was, the rare public appearance by Bauer gave off a similarly direct message. The administration has long argued that judicial vacancies at the federal level were hitting a dire state. Deploying the president's chief counsel to make the case, indicates that the White House sees the next few months as a critical juncture to fill those vacant posts.
Here are the names of the nominees the Judiciary Committee will be considering (a committee spokesperson said there could be four additional names considered):
- James E. Graves, Jr., to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit
- Amy Totenberg, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia Carolina
- James E. Boasberg, to be United States District Judge for the District of Columbia
- Amy B. Jackson, to be United States District Judge for the District of Columbia
- Paul K. Holmes, III, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Arkansas
- Anthony J. Battaglia, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of California
- Edward Davila, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of California
- Diana Saldana, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas
- Max O. Cogburn, Jr., to be United States District Judge for the Western District of North Carolina
- Marco A. Hernandez, to be United States District Judge for the District of Oregon
- Steve Jones, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia