A little bit more than a month ago, Democrats everywhere rejoiced when Senate Democrats used the “nuclear option”, invoking unanimous consent to change their own rules, and allow nominations of judicial branch nominees, except to the Supreme Court, to proceed without filibuster.
Now, just to be clear, Senate Democrats did not kill the filibuster, they did not kill the filibuster on all nominations, and they did not kill the filibuster on all Judicial nominations. Democrats in the Senate voted to end the filibuster for all non-Supreme Court judicial nominations only.
One would think, since the Democrats lowered the threshold to pass judicial nominees through the Senate from 60 to 50, they would have seen an improvement in their already abysmal rate of judicial confirmations. But you would think wrong. Since the “nuclear option” was used, Democrats have nominated just one judge, Robert Wilkins, who now serves on the all-important D.C. Court of appeals.
Besides Wilkins, there are still 32 federal judges in the pipeline awaiting a vote. Why are they still in the pipeline, you ask? Well, Republicans, of course! You see, even though Democrats got rid of the filibuster for judicial non-Supreme Court nominations, they didn’t get rid of every other small procedural trick in the book, like anonymous holds, and refusal to give consent.
With Federal Judicial appointments, usually what’s called a “blue slip” is given to each of the home state Senators, and the nomination will not go forward without both of those Senators returning that blue slip. And, you guessed it, Republicans are breaking another norm, using another lever of power that was rarely used before this congress, and failing to return the blue slips. One Republican Senator even refused to return the blue slip for a jurist HE PUT FORWARD FOR NOMINATION!
In a particularly galling example of the circular logic behind the latest round of Republican obstructionism, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said, “The Democratic majority changed the rules of the Senate in a way that creates a Senate without rules. So until I understand better how a United States senator is supposed to operate in a Senate without rules, I object”, so get used to it everybody.