Burr Can Unfreeze Judge Nominations
The partisan game-playing on judicial appointments continues in Washington. Sen. Richard Burr has an opportunity to call “foul” on one play.
In the past, Democrats in the Senate have been known to delay appointments made by Republican presidents. But the virtual freeze that Republicans have imposed on judges and others nominated by President Obama — including ones that everybody agree are well qualified — has lately soared to new highs (or sunk to new lows).
Case in point: There are two openings on the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals, which oversees five Southeastern states, including ours. North Carolina would benefit greatly from representation on that bench. The Obama administration has chosen two highly qualified nominees, both from North Carolina: state Court of Appeals Judge Jim Wynn and N.C. Business Court Judge Albert Diaz.
No one disagrees that the two would make fine federal judges. Both Republican Burr and Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan have expressed strong support for them. The Senate Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly approved them way back in January.
So what’s the hangup? Just this: Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, says he objects to holding a vote on these two judges. Bear in mind that he’s not just saying he would vote against them. He’s saying he doesn’t want his fellow senators even to have the opportunity to vote “yea” or “nay.” And as Senate minority leader, he has the power to turn that whim into iron reality as capriciously as he chooses.
In a recent speech, McConnell made it clear that his “reason” for sitting on the nominations — besides general orneriness, reluctance to move beyond the partisan feud that increasingly paralyzes our lawmaking process, and a predisposition to sabotage anything that has the Obama name on it — is that he doesn’t like the president’s appointment of Donald Berwick to run the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Talk about punishing the wrong people. Bear in mind that Berwick’s administrative job, part of the executive branch, has no known connection to either Wynn or Diaz or the judicial-branch jobs in which the president wants to place them. Rather, their inexcusable holdup, and reluctant backups in judicial calendars, is just one more example of the childish bickering and backstabbing that have become all too tiresomely and disgracefully familiar in our nation’s capital.
N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, running against Burr in this fall’s election, has charged that it is Burr himself who is secretly delaying the vote, getting McConnell to do his dirty work for him. Burr denies that.
There is one way he could show he’s above such base maneuvers: He could come out and publicly ask McConnell and others in the GOP leadership to do the right thing and unfreeze the nominations of these two good men who are undeservedly caught in a partisan crossfire that is not of their own making.
But don’t hold your breath.
More like this story