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Ornstein: A Tale of Two Filibusters

Patricia Wald, the eminent judge on the D.C. Circuit who now has senior status, wrote recently about the heavy toll on the circuit, which has four vacancies and the heaviest and most complex workload of all the courts of appeals. The D.C. Circuit currently has a conservative bent, shown most recently in the ruling of a three-judge panel led by the notorious David B. Sentelle that struck down the bulk of recess appointments.

Republicans in the Senate clearly want to keep that bent. Another superb nominee, Sri Srinivasan, will come up soon and we will see if he faces the same filibuster hurdle. I am not opposed to judicial filibuster, lifetime appointments are different. But only if they are based on individual candidate qualifications, not a partisan strategy to keep slots open.

Liberals in the Senate are pushing the White House to put highly qualified nominees for all four vacancies on the floor together. If they are all filibustered, it will make clear the opposition is as described above. If it is a broader strategy to use filibusters to block the bulk of Obama nominees to key judicial posts, and not isolated cases, you can be sure that the filibuster compromise worked out in January by Reid and McConnell will be revisited.

Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

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