Assistant Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., called the GOP critique “as empty as any argument I’ve ever heard on the floor of the Senate.”
D.C. Court Caseload
In 2011, GOP senators argued that the workload of the D.C. appellate court did not justify filling vacancies. They renewed that critique on Tuesday, with Hatch and fellow Utah Republican Mike Lee both citing falling case numbers.
But Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and other Democrats noted the court’s vacancies have doubled during the past two years, with four of 11 slots now empty.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., added, “Obama is the only president in the 65-year history of the D.C. Circuit Court not to have a single judge confirmed [to the court] during his first term.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also weighed in, telling reporters at a news briefing Tuesday, “The court has never been this understaffed in its history.”
The D.C. appellate court is widely viewed as the second most powerful U.S. court, behind only the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, Durbin and New York Democrat Charles E. Schumer cited the influential nature of the court as the core reason for GOP opposition to Obama’s pick.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.