Senate to Tackle Pending Judicial Nominees in September

Posted August 18, 2009 at 10:54am

Update: 7:50 p.m.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s steady pace of clearing nominees was briefly slowed by the lengthy process to confirm Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, but the panel is expected to tackle a new round of pending nominations when members return next month following the August break.

There are 13 judicial and 19 executive nominations pending before the committee, which for nearly two months was consumed with Sotomayor’s nomination. Before approving the high court nominee, the Judiciary panel considered and approved 32 nominations, with the majority of those persons tapped for various posts in the Obama administration.

But while the panel has voted out four judicial nominees, Sotomayor was the first one approved by the full Senate this year.

David Hamilton, nominated to fill a vacancy in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Andre Davis, nominated to the 4th Circuit; and Gerard Lynch, nominated to fill a spot on the 2nd Circuit, were all approved by the Judiciary Committee and have been lingering on the executive calendar since June.

“I am disappointed that the President’s first judicial nominations, and several other important executive nominations, remain pending in the Senate,— Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement just before the August break.

The Senate cleared 10 judicial nominees Aug. 7, including five U.S. attorneys and one U.S. marshal. Still, 10 more nominations are pending, including three judicial picks.

Among those pending is Dawn Johnsen, the controversial nominee to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. The Indiana University law professor was approved March 20 in committee along party lines, but Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has yet to bring up the nomination before the full Senate.

Moderate Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.) also oppose Johnsen’s nomination, although they are likely to vote for cloture. But the absences of ailing Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) may make it difficult for Reid to mustering 60 votes to consider the nomination.

“We’re working to get agreements on all the nominees that are pending,— Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle said.