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Unprecedented and Inexcusable Obstructionism

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Democratic Senators are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore. Ten Democrats took to the Senate floor on Tuesday morning to protest the unprecedented level of Republican obstructionism of nominees. During President Obama's first year in office, Republicans perfected the art of the stall by using a range of procedural tactics. They nearly ground the confirmation process to a halt. A group of Democratic newcomers launched Tuesday's public protest to call out the Republicans' shameful abuse of process.

In 2009, the Senate confirmed only 12 of President Obama's circuit and district court nominations - the lowest number of judicial confirmations in the last fifty years. It didn't used to be this way: more than 87% of President Bush's nominees received final action in the Senate during his first year in office. But Senate Republicans have abandoned the long tradition of confirming the President's nominations in a timely manner.

Republicans have also blocked President Obama's executive nominees at unprecedented rates. From 1949 to 2008, cloture votes had been forced on only 24 executive branch nominees. In the first thirteen months of the Obama Administration, Republican Senators forced cloture votes on nine executive branch nominations -- that's a 2000% increase. During all eight years of the Bush Administration, the Senate subjected only seven executive branch nominees to cloture votes, as opposed to nine in Obama's first year alone.

How does a small group of Republican Senators manage to hold up the confirmation process? They continually refuse to reach time agreements to vote on nominations, force cloture votes, and place anonymous holds on nominees. At this moment, the federal judiciary, already overburdened, now has 102 vacancies. Important bureaus and federal agencies still lack leadership. This serious abuse of process has real consequences on the functioning of our government.

As Senator Whitehouse said on the Senate floor, the Republicans "obstructionist tactics" are "preventing the government of the United States from doing its business," and they are "wrong for all Americans who depend on effective United States government." The Republican shenanigans - refusing to reach time agreements on floor debate or confirming nominees by voice vote - have wasted valuable time on the Senate floor when the country is begging for Congress to get things done on the pressing policy issues of the day. GOP obstructionism is unprecedented and inexcusable.

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