The Wall Street Journal encouraged Republican obstructionism by calling on the GOP to filibuster President Obama's nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, ignoring that historic levels of GOP obstructionism have caused judicial emergencies and falsely claiming that Obama is trying to “pack” the court.
On June 4, Obama nominated Cornelia Pillard, Patricia Millett, and Robert Wilkins to fill vacancies on the D.C. Circuit. In his June 4 remarks announcing the nominations, Obama highlighted that Republicans have routinely blocked his nominees to the court in the past, and asked that the Senate give his current nominees an “up or down vote” without partisan obstruction. If Republicans filibuster these current nominees, Senate Democrats may move to change filibuster rules in order to allow a simple majority to confirm nominees.
Despite these remarks, a June 5 Journal editorial urged Republicans to obstruct Obama's most recent nominations, claiming that Democrats were bluffing in their response to the filibuster and falsely stating that the President sought to “pack a court that is often considered the second most important in the country.”
But as Media Matters has noted, filling vacant seats is nothing like court packing, which seeks to change the total number of seats on the court. The D.C. Circuit currently has several of its judgeships vacant, resulting in judicial emergencies as the vacancies leave the court skewed towards the Republicans on the bench. The resulting decisions have been unsurprisingly hostile to progressive legislation and policy supported by Democratic presidents.
Furthermore, the Journal itself has previously reported on the negative effects of the rampant GOP obstructionism that has prevented the administration from addressing these judicial emergencies. The Journal's Washington Bureau Chief Gerald F. Seib detailed how GOP obstructionism made the Senate “an embarrassment to itself” that “increasingly infects the rest of government with its paralysis.”
In fact, according to Dr. Sheldon Goldman, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts who focuses on judicial nominations, “the level of obstruction of Obama circuit court nominees during the last Congress was unprecedented.” The Washington Post's Greg Sargent explained Goldman's research:
Goldman calculates his Index of Obstruction and Delay by adding together the number of unconfirmed nominations, plus the number of nominations that took more than 180 days to confirm (not including nominations towards the end of a given Congress) and dividing that by the total number of nominations. During the last Congress, Goldman calculates, the Index of Obstruction and Delay for Obama circuit court nominations was 0.9524.
“That's the highest that's ever been recorded,” he tells me. “In this last Congress it approached total obstruction or delay.”
By contrast, during the 108th Congress, from 2003-2004 - which is the most comparable, because George W. Bush was president and Republican controlled the Senate, meaning Dems had to use procedural tactics available to the minority to block nominations -- the Index of Obstruction and Delay for Bush circuit court nominations was far lower, at 0.6176.
On Obama's district court nominations during the 112th Congress, Goldman's Index of Obstruction and Delay was a high 0.8716, he says. Nothing in Bush's years comes even close, he adds.