An ever-vigilant watchdog to guard against all things lacking sense, I write yet again to remind you of an impending crisis. This time, it is in the judiciary caused by Senate Democrats. In my time as a columnist I can honestly say that my purely objective analyses have found Senate Democrats to be behind many a vile scheme. It is remarkable how many rotten pies they have their fingers in!
The crisis to which I refer, of course, is the growing number of judicial vacancies on the federal bench. Currently, there are a shocking 96 vacancies in the federal court system. In the 6th judicial circuit, for instance, eight of the 16 positions remain unfilled.
Who is responsible for this crisis? Not President George W. Bush, who has proactively worked to get the courts back to full speed by making nominations to fill the vacancies. He’s made 98 nominations in all, of which only 42 have been confirmed by the Senate. Most of the others have not even been brought up for debate in the Senate.
Why would Senate Democrats refuse even to vote on these nominations? In part, it is surely retribution for a similar, yet much more small-scale, stonewalling that the Republican Senate did to former President Bill Clinton’s judicial nominees. It wasn’t right when the Republicans did it then, and it certainly isn’t right when the Democrats do it now. This eye for an eye, partisan style of governance is petty and insulting to the citizens these legislators represent.
As another possibility, perhaps the Democrats object on “philosophical grounds,” feeling the nominees to be unworthy of serving as federal judges. If so, I wonder what arbitrary and biased criteria the legislators are using, as all of the President’s nominees who have been evaluated by the American Bar Association have been rated “qualified” or “well qualified.”
Why should anyone care about all of this? First, it creates a logistical nightmare that impedes justice. Next time you hear horror stories about cases taking months and years just to be heard, you’ll know who to thank: Senate Democrats, whose inactivity is leaving but a skeleton crew to run the federal courts.
More than that, the refusal of the Senate Democrats to bring these nominations to a vote is a disgusting abuse of power. The American people entrust them, as the “majority” party in the Senate, with the power to lead the discourse in the Senate and take care of the business of the people. Not even having a vote on these judges is a grave breach of this trust. It is wholly inexcusable. If Democrats truly object to these nominees, then they can vote them down if they wish — then at least we could move forward with new nominees and the like. But they should at least bring it to a vote.
This crisis is yet another example of the bad fruit that comes from overly partisan governance. I have written many times about the rancor of partisan politics, and in this instance it is literally an obstacle to justice and makes a mockery of the entire system.
If your senator is one of these offenders, you might consider writing him or her to urge action on these nominations, one way or another. Perhaps the possibility of losing voters might motivate these senators to cease their abuse of power.
Without question, it is terribly irresponsible of the Senate Democrats not to act on these nominations. America’s citizens deserve more than this.
William Edwards is a senior in Pierson College. This is his final regular column.