Too Many Vacancies.

Taegan Goddard flags a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer noting that, of President Obama's 73 appointments to the federal bench, the vast majority have been women and minorities. To be more precise, nearly half have been women, 25 percent have been African American, 11 percent Asian American, and 10 percent Hispanic. Only 30 percent of Obama's appointees have been white men, compared with two-thirds for George W. Bush. While that's great, it's also true that Obama has had far fewer nominees confirmed than the previous five presidents. In a report released last year, the Alliance for Justice found that in Obama's first year in office, the Senate confirmed a mere 23 percent of Obama's judicial nominees. By contrast, Presidents Carter and Reagan had 91 percent of their nominees confirmed in their first year. That number dropped to 65 percent for George H.W. Bush, 57 percent for Bill Clinton, and 44 percent for George W. Bush.

As I've written before, you can attribute the dismal confirmation numbers to the GOP's strategy of hyper-obstruction; regular filibusters and holds have kept dozens of nominees from coming to a vote. But this isn't just a problem of Republican stalling and intransigence. In his first year, Obama offered a slim total of 26 judicial nominees: 12 to the U.S. Court of Appeals and 14 to U.S. District Courts. Other presidents have had more vacancies, but still, it's stunning to see the difference; Bill Clinton presented 47 nominees in his first year, and George W. Bush upped the number with 65 nominees. At present there are 79 vacancies in U.S. District Courts and only 28 pending nominees. Jonathan Bernstein has called Obama's unwillingness to nominate judges a "scandal." I agree; even with Republican obstruction, there is no excuse for Obama to leave this many vacancies unfilled.

If Obama waits until after the elections to get serious about making nominations, it will have been too late; a resurgent GOP will be even less willing to honor presidential appointments. Now is the time to play hardball; Obama should nominate as many judges as possible, and Senate Democrats
should do everything possible to get those nominees through.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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