In an exchange that seems designed to prove why fewer Americans approve of Congress than approve of communism or the BP oil spill, Senate Leaders Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) engaged in a long debate this morning over why Reid is currently trying to break seventeen filibusters of President Obama’s judicial nominees. The exchange culminated with McConnell admitting that, even though all these judges will be confirmed eventually, he is blocking them now because he is upset that Reid’s making him look bad:
REID: I’ve got a great idea. My friend the Republican Leader said these judges are all going to get approved anyway, so I’ve got an idea. Let’s go to this IPO bill immediately after finishing the highway bill, with the agreement that we’ll dispose of these judges immediately after that. . . .
McCONNELL: It is highly unlikely any of these district judges are not going to be confirmed. We’ve done a number of them this year. We’ve done seven this year. District judges are almost never defeated. This is just a very transparent attempt to try to slam dunk the minority and make them look like they are obstructing things they aren’t obstructing. We object to that. We don’t think that meets the standard of civility that should be expected in the Senate. And, so, any effort to make the minority look bad or attempt to slam dunk them that is sort of manufactured as this is is gonna, of course, be greeted with resistance.
Let’s explain what’s going on here. Both Reid and McConnell agree that there is nothing objectionable about these judges — in McConnell’s words, “it is highly unlikely any of these district judges are not going to be confirmed.” Additionally, both men agree that the Senate should vote on the “IPO bill” that Reid refers to, a bill dealing with investments in small businesses that recently passed the House. Initially, Reid wanted to vote on the seventeen judges awaiting confirmation before moving on to the IPO bill, but he even concedes this point — saying that he is willing to “go to this IPO bill” first as McConnell prefers.
And then McConnell says this deal is unacceptable because Reid “ma[de] the minority look bad.”
If this is truly McConnell’s reason for blocking these judges, then he just made an absolutely shocking admission. Thanks to excessive judicial vacancies, America’s courts are increasingly unable to function. In some courts, judges are so overburdened they have to rush major felony cases through as if they involved minor traffic violations. In one court, felony caseloads nearly doubled in just two years. Every court that is unable to handle its caseload means wrongly fired workers waiting months or years for justice and businesses that must delay making new hires until they are sure they won’t be hit with an unwarranted legal judgment. And yet McConnell says he is willing to punish all of these workers and businesses because he is upset that Reid has made him look bad. America can ill afford this kind of tantrum.