Se­nate Democrats to push for Memphis judge nom­i­nee’s ap­proval

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OBITUARIES - BY MICHAEL COLLINS

WASH­ING­TON — With time quickly run­ning out, Se­nate Democrats are plan­ning to ratchet up their pres­sure on Repub­li­cans to hold con­fir­ma­tion votes on Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ju­di­cial nom­i­nees, in­clud­ing Ed­ward Stan­ton III of Memphis.

The Se­nate re­turns to work Tues­day af­ter a seven-week break. Democrats are ex­pected to move swiftly to de­mand votes on the stalled nom­i­nees and keep up the pres­sure all through Septem­ber.

“There is ab­so­lutely no rea­son why all of these judges should not be con­firmed, other than sheer ob­struc­tion­ism,” said Glenn Sugameli, a Wash­ing­ton at­tor­ney and founder of the non­profit group Judg­ing the En­vi­ron­ment, which closely tracks ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions.

Stan­ton, the U.S. at­tor­ney for Ten­nessee’s Western Dis­trict, has waited al­most a year for a floor vote on his nom­i­na­tion.

Obama nom­i­nated him to fill a Western Dis­trict va­cancy in May 2015. The Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee voted unan­i­mously last Oc­to­ber to send his nom­i­na­tion to the Se­nate floor for a vote. Since then, he’s been trapped in a stand­off be­tween Se­nate Democrats and Repub­li­cans.

But this fight is about pol­i­tics, not about Stan­ton or his fit­ness for the job.

No one ques­tions his qual­i­fi­ca­tions. He’s backed by the state’s two Repub­li­can sen­a­tors,

“There is ab­so­lutely no rea­son why all of these judges should not be con­firmed, other than sheer ob­struc­tion­ism.” — GLENN SUGAMELI, FOUNDER OF THE NON­PROFIT GROUP JUDG­ING THE EN­VI­RON­MENT

La­mar Alexan­der and Bob Corker. He’s al­most cer­tain to be con­firmed, if the GOP ever agrees to give him a vote.

Stan­ton isn’t the only nom­i­nee in limbo. Twenty-seven await votes on the Se­nate floor, and, like Stan­ton, 18 would fill seats on fed­eral dis­trict courts where cases are first heard.

Democrats have ar­gued for months that Repub­li­cans are drag­ging their feet on Obama’s nom­i­nees, hop­ing to run out the clock so judge­ships can be filled by the next pres­i­dent. A re­port last fall by the lib­eral ad­vo­cacy group Al­liance for Jus­tice charged that the pace of ju­di­cial nom­i­nees con­firmed un­der the GOP-con­trolled Se­nate is the slow­est in 60 years.

Repub­li­cans say that’s non­sense and note the Se­nate has con­firmed 329 of Obama’s ju­di­cial nom­i­nees, com­pared to the 312 con­firmed at the same point in Ge­orge W. Bush’s pres­i­dency.

But most of Obama’s nom­i­nees were con­firmed when the Se­nate was un­der Demo­cratic con­trol. Repub­li­cans have con­firmed just 22 ju­di­cial nom­i­nees since they re­turned to power in Jan­uary 2015.

What’s more, Obama has faced more va­can­cies than Bush, which is why his over­all num­ber of con­fir­ma­tions is slightly higher, Sugameli said.

When­ever the next round of con­fir­ma­tion votes oc­curs, Stan­ton should be first in line, as­sum­ing nom­i­nees are con­sid­ered in the or­der in which they were sent to the floor.

It’s pos­si­ble some nom­i­nees, in­clud­ing Stan­ton, could get a vote in Septem­ber, said Carl To­bias, a Univer­sity of Rich­mond School of Law pro­fes­sor who closely fol­lows the ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions process.

“If it hap­pens, I think he will clearly be con­firmed,” To­bias said.

It’s also pos­si­ble ju­di­cial nom­i­nees will be put on the back burner be­cause of other is­sues, such as Zika fund­ing and the fed­eral bud­get, that need to be dealt with quickly.

If Stan­ton isn’t con­firmed in Septem­ber, he’ll prob­a­bly have to wait un­til af­ter the No­vem­ber elec­tion be­cause the Se­nate will be in re­cess al­most all of Oc­to­ber.

A post-elec­tion ses­sion would leave lit­tle time for sen­a­tors to con­firm all of Obama’s ju­di­cial nom­i­nees be­fore the end of the year. But Stan­ton’s po­si­tion at the front of the line dra­mat­i­cally im­proves his odds of win­ning con­fir­ma­tion, To­bias said.

“It would take 10 min­utes on the floor to con­firm Stan­ton,” he said. “There doesn’t need to be a lot of de­bate. There’s noth­ing to de­bate.”

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