There's no question about whether Republicans are determined to spike Obama's judicial nominations. With few exceptions they're out to make trouble. No need to argue: there's plenty of proof of that.
But Obama is getting some very pointed criticism from the Linda Greenhouse in New York Times for an absence of nominations or even a strategy for making them and fighting for confirmation. The Republicans are getting away with threats and neither Harry Reid nor the Obama administration are doing anything much to counter them.
The Republican strategy is perfectly clear. It is the Democrats’ behavior, both in the Senate and in the White House, that has progressives seething right now.
The administration is simply not nominating judges at an acceptable rate or making a public push for those it has nominated. For the current 17 vacancies on the federal appeals courts, there are only eight nominees. For 75 district court vacancies, there are 34 nominees. It’s possible to come up with explanations for some of these missing nominees — recalcitrance on the part of home-state senators, tardiness by the American Bar Association committee that vets potential nominees — but these numbers are huge. As of this month, President Obama is 33 judicial nominations behind where President George W. Bush was at the comparable point in his presidency, and 41 nominations behind President Bill Clinton.
That judges are among a president’s most important legacies is an observation so obvious as to be platitudinous. So here’s another observation: you can’t confirm someone who hasn’t been nominated.
Bottom line? Even if Obama is reelected and then followed by a progressive administration, cutting out Republican opportunities for regaining the White House for at least another decade, we're still in trouble when it comes to filling Supreme Court vacancies.
The judges named by President Bill Clinton during the 1990’s are either approaching or have passed 60, the magic age at which Supreme Court prospects effectively disappear. It is their prospective replacements, those with clear Supreme Court potential, who are the current hostages. Goodwin Liu, the Berkeley law professor, Rhodes Scholar and former Supreme Court law clerk, nominated 14 months ago to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is the poster child for this strategy. He has been approved by the Judiciary Committee three times on a party-line vote but has yet to receive a vote on the Senate floor because of a threatened Republican filibuster.
Liberal and progressive wimps in the White House and Senate will have effectively deprived the Supreme Court of liberal and progressive justices simply by not fighting and just doing the job it takes to get change a nomination into a confirmation.