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Long Wait Persists for Judicial Hopefuls

“It used to be being nominated for a federal judgeship was a great thing. If you were a lawyer, you hit the top of the professional mountain when you’ve been nominated,” said Peck, a partner at Peck, Madigan Jones & Stewart. “Today, the good news is you’ve been nominated to be a federal judge. The bad news is you’ve been nominated to be a federal judge and you’ve been exposed to a dysfunctional confirmation process. Unless you’re a sitting judge, your life is in limbo in ways you can’t imagine.”

Republicans counter that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) can schedule time for judicial nominees if he chooses and that nominees have taken a backseat to other Democratic priorities this year.

“Republicans will continue to do their part in considering nominees at a responsible pace — in contrast to Democrats’ obstructionism and repeated filibusters during the Bush years,” said Stephen Miller, spokesman for Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). “The reality remains that President Obama has nominated judges at a slower pace than his predecessor and Democrats have not made moving certain nominees a priority.”

Republicans also say the chamber approved Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees without much delay and even cleared 13 of Obama’s lower court picks while Elena Kagan’s nomination was making its way through the chamber. Additionally, four judicial nominees were cleared before the August break — potentially the largest group to move for the rest of the year.

Democrats have already set out this fall to approve a small-business bill, a continuing resolution and an extension of some expiring tax cuts approved in 2001 and 2003. Incumbents facing tough re-elections are eager to wrap up the work and return home to campaign, so adding nominations to the list of priorities is unlikely, sources say.

“Judges are a Washington, D.C., thing, and right now, Democrats need to focus on jobs,” one staffer said. “Judicial nominations are important, but right now they’re not as big a priority.”

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