Senate Confirms Judge, and the Queue is Now Empty

Ernst, left, and Grassley, saw two judges for their state get confirmed easily.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate confirmed Leonard Terry Strand to be U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Iowa on Thursday, in what might be the final judicial nominee confirmed for the foreseeable future.  

Strand, approved 93-0 and with a lot of enthusiasm from Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, was the last part of a deal agreed to last year to confirm five nominees to the federal bench .  Strand and Rebecca Ebinger, who was confirmed as a district judge for the Southern District of Iowa on Feb. 8, won unanimous support on their way to preside in Grassley's home state. "I said this on the floor earlier this week, but for the benefit of my colleagues who didn't get a chance to hear that wonderful speech that I gave, in my opinion, the Iowa nominees, Judge Ebinger and now Judge Strand, are the two best judicial candidates the president has nominated," Grassley beamed.  

But even amid the warm feeling as senators bid each other goodbye and wished each other a nice holiday weekend and recess, the judicial nominee pipeline has now gone cold. Although the Judiciary Committee has approved 17 nominees who await a floor vote, there is no deal to move forward.  

Judiciary ranking member Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., praised Strand in a statement, but also prodded his Republican colleagues to pick up the pace on confirming judges. "It is our constitutional duty as senators to provide advice and consent on these judicial nominees. The federal judiciary is dependent on us to fulfill this obligation, and the American people expect that we will do the jobs we have been elected to do in the U.S. Senate," he said.  

Leahy has said the least the Senate could do is agree to vote on the same number of George W. Bush's nominees the Democratic-led Senate voted on in 2008, a total of 28.  That was the last time Washington had a similar partisan dynamic: a president in the last year of his tenure and a Senate controlled by the opposition party.