Since the Halligan fight, liberal groups have grown even more vocal about the vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, with some also criticizing Obama for not acting more swiftly to send nominations up to the Hill. Judiciary Committee Republicans make the same point.
ďSomehow confirming 178 judges and declining to confirm two in the Presidentís first term constitutes obstruction. No matter how hard you try, you canít spin the fact that out of the 87 judicial vacancies in the federal courts, 62 of them donít have nominees,Ē Beth Levine, a spokeswoman for ranking member Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, said in a statement to CQ Roll Call.
Reidís April 5 comments on Nevada public radio may have been an opening salvo intended to get Republicans to allow more high-level judicial nominations through or face the risk of seeing the majority leader move unilaterally to change the Senateís rules with a simple majority.
ďIf the Republicans in the Senate donít start approving some judges and donít start helping get some of these nominations done, then weíre going to have to take more action,Ē Reid said.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Monday also slammed the continuing delays and obstruction of the presidentís judicial nominees, but he stopped short of endorsing Reidís implied threat to use the nuclear option against judicial filibusters.
Carney said there has been a consistent pattern of judicial nominees being blocked for months at a time, although he noted that there has been some improvement so far this year.
ďWe share Sen. Reidís frustration, and we hope that the Senate continues to improve,Ē he said.
The Washington Post reported last week that Obama has made personal appeals for his judicial nominees in recent meetings with Senate Republicans. Before Reidís remarks, senators had already reached agreement on a Tuesday afternoon confirmation vote for Patty Shwartz to a seat on the Philadelphia-based federal appeals court, but the next real test may come over Principal Deputy Solicitor General Srikanth Srinivasanís nomination to a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court to which Halligan was nominated. Obama remains the only president to serve a full four-year term without successfully nominating a judge to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing Wednesday for Srinivasan. Advocates have been touting Srinivasanís bipartisan support from, among others, former solicitors general and Supreme Court clerks.