A Catholic University law professor wrote today in a Huffington Post column that President Obama’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy is the victim of a Republican “obstructionist strategy” to stall the confirmation of federal judges.
Professor Victor Williams noted that OLP nominee Christopher Schroeder, who would vet candidates for federal judgeships, is unable to review applicants for more than 100 open seats in the U.S. District and Appeals courts. Obama has made 48 U.S. District and Appeals court nominations — 17 of whom have won confirmation thus far.
Schroeder, a Duke University law professor, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last summer, then spent several months waiting for a vote on the Senate floor last year before he was returned to the White House in December. He was re-nominated in January and was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 4 on a 16-3 vote.
GOP Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), John Cornyn (Texas), and Tom Coburn (Okla.) voted against Schroeder in committee. Kyl said in February that he was concerned that Schroeder, who has been a critic of President George W. Bush’s national security policies, would be vetting judicial candidates.
“The obstructionist strategy is too obvious,” Williams wrote. “Keep Obama’s judge-vetting operation muddled for the first year and impede the timely appointment of Obama judges for the rest of the first term.”
Republicans maintain they are not blocking nominations, saying that the Senate Democratic leadership could bring nominees up for votes at any time.
But Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said last week that Republican senators are rebuffing time agreements, which would limit debate on a nomination. If there isn’t a time agreement, the Senate must vote to invoke cloture, a procedure to end debate but which requires 60 votes, in order to move to a nomination or legislation. The cloture process is time-consuming and could take several days.
Williams said the Senate should move on Schroeder’s nomination before the Senate’s recess later this month or Obama should use a recess appointment for Schroeder.
“The Republican strategy to block Obama judges by extreme slow walking the judge-vetter is now exposed,” Williams wrote. “Republicans should … allow an up-or-down vote before the Senate’s Easter/Passover recess. Otherwise, as I have argued, President Obama should make the OLP position one of scores of vacancies that he fills with the stroke of a pen.”
The Catholic University law professor has also called on the Senate to confirm Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen, who has also been stalled in the Senate.