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Pat Toomey Pushes for Confirmation of Obama Judge Picks

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) wrote to Senate leaders today urging them to schedule a vote on two U.S. District Court judges from Pennsylvania in November when Congress returns to take care of essential legislative business after the elections.

"I write to encourage the full Senate to consider two bipartisan-supported U.S. District Court judicial nominees for the Middle District of Pennsylvania when the Senate returns in November," Toomey said in a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Matthew W. Brann and Malachy E. Mannion were nominated by President Barack Obama to be a judges for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in May. The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared both nominations in July by voice vote.

"Both nominees share a commitment to service and possess the requisite judicial acumen and temperament for the bench." Toomey said. "The two vacancies in the Middle District of Pennsylvania are of particular concern since the Williamsport courthouse is without a sitting judge and the district has been in a state of judicial emergency since 2009."

"I recognize the challenge in confirming all of the pending nominees before the year's end, but I hope that we can work together to find a way to ensure that at least Mr. Brann and Judge Mannion receive a confirmation vote in light of the unique circumstances surrounding the Middle District of Pennsylvania," Toomey said.

The letter comes after the Senate agreed to confirm two District Court judges last week just before Members left town until after the elections.

The two confirmed judges - Gonzalo P. Curiel to join the Southern District of California and Robert J. Shelby to fill a vacancy on the District of Utah - were part of a package of 17 District Court judges Reid had sought to get through the Senate by unanimous consent.

Brann and Mannion were also part of the confirmation package, but McConnell blocked Reid's effort Thursday afternoon as he sought to adhere to an agreement to process only about two District Court judges per week.

Struck in March, that agreement to approve 14 judicial nominees was spurred by Democrats who claimed the GOP was dragging its feet on judicial nominations and threatened to take up 17 nominations one by one, a process that would have tied up the Senate floor for weeks. Republicans have also sought to put a halt to most judicial confirmations in the runup to the presidential election, a practice that both parties have adhered to in the past.

Still, Democrats lamented the McConnell's objection, noting court vacancies are at historic highs.

"We all know that justice delayed is justice denied," Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said last week.

"By refusing to vote on these 15 nominations, Senate Republicans have declared that they are unconcerned about the millions of Americans who will continue to lack adequate access to our federal courts and speedy justice," Leahy said.

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