Time to Invoke the "Thurmond Rule" on Bush Judicial Nominees

People for the American Way warns that Republicans are bringing pressure on Senators to confirm President Bush's remaining judicial nominees. It has written this letter(pdf) to Sen. Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, suggesting the "Thurmond Rule" be invoked. From the letter:

There is no justification for the Judiciary Committee to accede to demands that it speed up the processing of controversial nominees, particularly at this point in a presidential election year. To the contrary, we believe the time has come for the Committee to invoke the Senate’s longstanding practice, popularly known as “the Thurmond Rule,” of processing only non-controversial judicial nominees during a significant portion of the year leading up to a presidential election. While there has never been a precise date upon which the Thurmond Rule is deemed to take effect, there is ample basis for the Committee to invoke that Rule now.

During much of President Clinton’s Administration, Republican leaders in the Senate blocked the President’s efforts to fill judicial vacancies, particularly on the Courts of Appeals, stranding 60 judicial nominees at the end of the Clinton presidency.2 Through such tactics as secret holds and refusals to schedule hearings or votes, Senate Republicans held judicial vacancies open literally for years in the hope that a Republican would be elected President.


As Senator Leahy recently described it, “[t]hey took the Thurmond rule to a whole new stage by utilizing it over a 5-year period, instead of the seven or eight months that normally takes place during a Presidential election year.”3 According to Senator Leahy, “[b]ecause of their irresponsible actions, vacancies in the courts rose to over a hundred. Circuit court vacancies doubled during the Clinton years because Republicans would not allow him to fill those vacancies.”4

President Bush’s judicial nominees have fared far better under Senator Leahy’s leadership....Under Senator Leahy’s leadership, the vacancy rate on the courts has been cut in half.5 After Senator Leahy assumed the Chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee last year, the Senate confirmed 40 judicial nominees, more than were confirmed in any of the years 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2000 by a Republican-led Senate considering President Clinton’s nominees.6 To date, the Senate has already confirmed three quarters of President Bush’s Circuit Court nominees, while only half of President Clinton’s were confirmed.7 While we have not agreed with all of the Bush nominee confirmations, certainly no one can fault Senator Leahy or other Senate Democrats for not diligently moving on the President’s nominees. The contrary notion being propagated by some of the President’s supporters is simply groundless.

As to Bush's judicial nominees so far, PFAW reminds us:

Hundreds of judges named by President Bush, notes Kolbert’s letter, “are actively dismantling constitutional and statutory protections for workers, for consumers, for women, for minorities, and for the environment. They are closing the courthouse doors to ordinary Americans seeking justice, making it harder for individuals even to get a day in court when they have been wronged.”

Bottom line:

“At this point in the active presidential election season, it is time for the Committee to say enough to such judges, not to speed up consideration of their nominations,” says the letter. “If President Bush cannot fill existing vacancies with mainstream, non-controversial nominees, then it should be up to the next President to do so.”

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    A little obstructionism... (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by dianem on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 11:33:07 AM EST
    ...can be a good thing. I really don't understand whey Democrats are so worried about being considered "obstructionist". The right wing throws the term around as if it were the worst thing that any politician could be, but obstructing injustice is not a bad thing. Maybe it's time we stopped letting them control the language. "Liberal", "obstruction", "fair and balanced", heck, even "torture" and "justice" have taken on entirely new meanings under Republican rule. Let's stop avoiding the discussion and take the language (and the ideas behind them) back to their original meanings.

    bear in mind, (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by cpinva on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:02:30 PM EST
    this would be the same crowd that disparages "activist judges" as though that isn't their job. by dint of diligently working that term into the public consciousness, they've succeeded in making a pejorative out of a judge's actual job description.

    They like activist judges (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Molly Bloom on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:42:24 PM EST
    provided they are conservative activists.

    (Can't use theirs, gotta use ours... cause they "can really take care of business!")


    heh (none / 0) (#11)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Apr 04, 2008 at 06:39:36 AM EST
    And here I was thinking that judges were supposed to preside over trials... I had no idea they were supposed to be changing and making laws....

    Quick! Some tell Obama, Hillary, McCain and all the rest that there is no need for elections!


    Heh (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Steve M on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 11:57:10 AM EST
    I have never heard it called the "Thurmond Rule" before.  I wonder if that's really a common usage or if it's just a nice job of framing.

    Listening to Arlen Specter whine about how hard he fought for Clinton's nominees during the last two years of his administration is just sickening.  Does he think we all just fell off a turnip truck?

    Absolutely NONE (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by po on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:05:49 PM EST
    of W's remaining judicial nominees should be confirmed.  Not one.  The Democratic "leaders" in Congress would do well to not bring ANY of W's nominations, for any position, to the floor for a vote.  There is no need and W and his supporters should not be rewarded with further opportunity to inflict damage on the federal government.

    If Leahy is even considering (none / 0) (#1)
    by ruffian on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 11:20:40 AM EST
    confirming judges at this point...well, I don't know what I'll do.  This should not even be a point of contention among Dems.

    I'll expand on that (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by ruffian on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 11:24:45 AM EST
    With the way Bush has politicized the justice system, no judicial or prosecutorial appointment of his can be considered above suspicion. There should be a moratorium on all confirmations.

    I am starting to think (none / 0) (#4)
    by Capt Howdy on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 11:50:03 AM EST
    that if Hillary is not the nominee I dont want her to be VP.  I want her in the senate, leader would be great, fighting for the courts.

    Another way the Repubs game the system (none / 0) (#8)
    by splashy on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:33:32 PM EST
    And hurt the rest of us that are not wealthy or Republicans.

    I can't believe that the Dems think it's good to work hard to confirm nominations for the Repubs that are backlogged deliberately. What is the point of getting Dems in if not to get better judges in?

    This conscientiousness is like being abused and doing everything to appease the abuser, instead of stopping the abuse. The worst part is that the working people are the ones that pay.

    Republicans & Clinton Judicial Nominees (none / 0) (#10)
    by Doc Rock on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:54:23 PM EST
    This behavior was part and parcel of the right wing gradualist coup that Cheney-Bush have helped to prosecute.  The damage done to the courts and DoJ may never be repaired.  And a tip of the Hatlo hat to Schumer & Feinstein for their Mukasey contribution to the erosion of justice.