WSJ Bureau Chief vs. WSJ Editorial Board On GOP Obstruction Of Judicial Nominations

Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

The Wall Street Journal debunked the false equivalency of its editorial page that insists the current GOP blockade on President Obama's judicial nominees is unremarkable "turnabout" and merely follows "filibuster precedent" set by Democrats.

In a May 13 article, the WSJ's Washington Bureau Chief Gerald F. Seib detailed the unprecedented Republican obstructionism of the president's agenda, which not only attempts to nullify his policy initiatives by hamstringing executive agencies, but more seriously by filibustering his picks for the federal courts.

As explained by Seib, the Republican refusal to allow up or down votes on President Obama's judicial nominations is both unparalleled and has turned the Senate into an "embarrassment to itself...that increasingly infects the rest of government with its paralysis." From his May 13 article:

The Obama administration must shoulder some blame for this predicament. It has been slower than its predecessors to vet and nominate judicial candidates.

But the lion's share of the blame lies with the Senate, a body that's becoming an embarrassment to itself and that increasingly infects the rest of government with its paralysis.

[...]

This problem has been building for years. A recent study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service shows that even noncontroversial judicial appointments--those that ultimately got bipartisan support and easily passed the Senate--are having to wait longer for confirmation across the past four presidencies of both parties.

As Republicans note, Democrats set the stage for today's problems by filibustering George W. Bush's judicial nominees. Now the problem has grown worse in the Obama years, as Republicans turn the tables and bottle up Democratic nominations.

The study found that 35.7% of George W. Bush's noncontroversial circuit-court nominees had to wait more than 200 days for confirmation--up from 22.2% for Bill Clinton. During the Obama presidency, that percentage has soared to 63.6%. No Obama circuit-court nominee has been confirmed in less than 100 days.

What's more, previously only more-sensitive appeals-court nominations were filibustered; now it's also less-sensitive district-court nominations.

By comparison, despite overwhelming evidence such as the Congressional Research Service report cited by Seib, the editorial page of the WSJ continues to echo the false claims of Republican leadership that GOP senators "have treated the president's judicial nominees very, very fairly by any objective standard."

Ignoring the repeated analyses demonstrating Republican filibusters during the Obama administration are in fact unprecedented, the editorial board of the WSJ adopts the "both sides do it" stance and presents the ensuing judicial vacancy crisis as "payback" and "merely following the filibuster precedent that Democrats set when George W. Bush was President." From a March 11 WSJ editorial crowing about Republicans' successful filibuster of the "superbly qualified" Caitlin Halligan to the important U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit:

President Obama denounced "the Republican pattern of obstruction," but Republicans are merely following the filibuster precedent that Democrats set when George W. Bush was President. Turnabout is unfair play.

[...]

Presidents deserve up-or-down votes on judicial nominees, and our politics would be healthier if the Senate went back to that standard. But we warned Democrats in 2002 about the filibuster precedent they were setting against [previous GOP judicial nominee Miguel] Estrada. Now they're reaping the consequences.

This false equivalency on the part of the editorial page of the WSJ also ignores the fact that the GOP blockade of judicial nominees is only one part of a long-standing Republican plan to defeat the president politically by completely stalling his legislative agenda. Republican senators are signaling that they may refuse to confirm the president's second term cabinet, another historic level of brinkmanship that has already resulted in a GOP boycott of committee hearings necessary to even begin a filibuster of Thomas Perez for Labor Secretary or Gina McCarthy for EPA Administrator.

And this is just the most obvious way the GOP - egged on by right-wing media - can immobilize executive action. The obstruction of new judges to the D.C. Circuit, rightly identified by Seib as one of the nation's "most important" appellate courts, has resulted in a court highly skewed to the right that is charged with reviewing the bulk of challenges to government regulations. Ensuing decisions have been beyond predictably pro-business and have tilted into radical reinterpretations of constitutional law, resulting in not only absurd gutting of National Labor Relations Board rules, but also attacks on the constitutionality of watchdog agencies' current leadership.

GOP senators are spinning furiously to obscure their role in this unprecedented obstruction. Hopefully WSJ reporters like Seib can continue to check their editorial colleagues' attempts to assist in this obfuscation.    

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, Justice & Civil Liberties
Show/Publication
The Wall Street Journal
Stories/Interests
Courts Matter
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.