The 2014 midterm elections are over and the Senate has returned to work for what is commonly called a “lame duck” session. While a “lame duck” session sounds, well, lame, this winter, it must not be an excuse for inaction. Among other pieces of business, there are many judicial nominees that must get confirmed to fill vacancies on our nation’s federal courts and keep the wheels of justice moving.
The Senate has a constitutional duty to advise and consent on the President’s nominees to serve as judges on our nation’s federal courts. There are currently 64 judicial nominees pending in the Senate. It is vital for the Senate to stay in session until every judicial nominee on the floor gets a yes-or-no vote. If these judges are not confirmed, our federal courts will not be able handle the issues – from marriage equality to voting rights to health care to immigration – that affect all of us.
Although Senators may want to get home for the holidays, Senators from both parties should stay in DC and do the necessary work to confirm needed judges. There is a historical precedent for this: In 2010 and 2012 lame duck sessions, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. Senators should apply a similar focus this session. In the 2002 lame duck session, Democrats controlled the Senate. In a spirit of bipartisanship, even though they were the opposition party, they nonetheless confirmed 20 of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Republicans today should put aside politics and get to work to get nominees waiting for a vote confirmed.
It is also important to work to confirm judges before the end of the year because as power changes hands in the Senate, it is likely that judicial nominees will be obstructed with the hope that a Republican president will be elected in 2016. GOP leadership may change the rules to slow judicial confirmations to a crawl and reinstitute obstruction by filibuster.
Instead of judges who side with corporate interests and whittle away at laws that protect our rights, the United States needs judges who support equality, protect access to health care, and are committed to safeguarding the Constitution. That’s why we need the Senate to act on judicial nominees before the end of the year.