Washington Post Gets the Numbers Wrong on Judicial Nominees


Washington Post Gets the Numbers Wrong on Judicial Nominees

Apr 3rd, 2014 2 min read
Elizabeth Slattery

Legal Fellow and Appellate Advocacy Program Manager, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies

Elizabeth Slattery researches and writes on the rule of law, separation of powers, civil rights, and other constitutional issues.

The Washington Post claims that the confirmation of President Obama’s judicial nominees might “get relatively close to Bush’s eight-year total”—if the Senate continues confirming them at the current rate. But comparing Obama’s nominations in just 5 years and change with all eight years of Bush’s administration is misleading.

President Obama’s first term has been characterized by some of his supporters as lackadaisical when it came to actually submitting nominations to the Senate for its consideration. Despite this fact, and in the face of supposed Republican obstruction on judicial nominations, Obama’s confirmation rate has actually been outpacing Bush’s 2-to-1.

At this point in Bush’s second term, the Senate had confirmed just 28 of his judicial nominees (and 222 overall including his first term). By comparison, Obama has had 62 nominees confirmed in his second term (235 overall). At this rate, Obama could add another 37 judges to the federal judiciary this year, and over the remainder of his second term, Obama is set to steamroll Bush’s total number of confirmations.

The Post also asserts that, should Republicans take control of the Senate this November, the pace of confirmation will likely rapidly decline. But, of course, the president controls the fate of his nominees in two major ways. First, the president would have a better chance of getting his nominees confirmed by nominating individuals to courts that actually need more judges—rather than attempting to pack courts to get more favorable rulings, as was the case with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Second, the president should select more moderate individuals instead of radical nominees (such as Debo Adegbile, a nominee to an executive branch position who was opposed by senators in the president’s own party).

But President Obama’s track record hasn’t been promising.

And, if a Republican takes the White House in 2016, Senate Democrats may rue their decision to effectively eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominations. Some on the Left have also been targeting the tradition of using blue slips as another form of so-called Republican obstruction. If that practice is likewise eliminated, whichever party is in the minority will have virtually no power over judicial nominations.


This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal