McConnell blasts judicial votes as gimmick to help Obama

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTop Armed Services Dem lobbies against 9/11 bill McConnell threatens shutdown to keep corporate political spending secret This week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday morning blasted today's possible cloture votes on 17 district court judges as an election-year gimmick staged by Democrats to make it look as if Republicans are blocking Obama's judicial nominees.

"This is about giving the president what he wants when he wants it," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "And what the president wants is to distract the country from his failed policies that have led to soaring gas prices and high unemployment, and instead try to write a narrative of obstruction for his campaign.

"He doesn't care if he eviscerates the Senate's advice-and-consent responsibility to do so," McConnell added, calling today's votes a "heavy-handed power play."

McConnell spoke shortly after Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidObama’s November surprise This week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress Week ahead: Spending fight shifts from Zika to Flint MORE (D-Nev.) said that the Senate could hold up to 17 cloture votes on district court judge nominations, unless the two parties could reach some other agreement. Republicans have objected to these votes by arguing that they would create the appearance that Republicans are objecting to the non-controversial nominees when there is little objection.

McConnell and other Republicans on Wednesday said there is little evidence of obstruction. McConnell said 76 of 78 of President Obama's district court nominations were approved in his first two years, and that Obama has had more lower-court nominees approved in his first three years — 129 — than President Bush had over a four-year period.

McConnell also said that of the 83 current judicial vacancies, 44 do not have nominees, and 17 others have not yet been moved out of the Judiciary Committee.

"Given what we have to work with, it's no wonder the majority leader complimented Republicans … at the ned of last year, noting that the Senate had in fact accomplished quite a bit on judicial nominations," McConnell said.

McConnell said that rather than holding a series of cloture votes to end debate on the nominees, Democrats should set an orderly process for disposing of the 17 nominees, and focus on moving the House-passed capital formation bill, H.R. 3606.

Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsTrump, Clinton discuss counterterrorism with Egyptian president GOP senators want immigration details on attack suspects GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (R-Ala.) spoke after McConnell, and agreed that Democrats are trying to paint Republicans as obstructionist.

"It's not accurate and it's not correct; they've been moving at their regular pace," Sessions said of the nominees. "It's a gimmick; it's a stunt to create an impression, politically."

Earlier, however, Sen. Tom CoburnTom CoburnRyan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight The Trail 2016: Words matter Ex-Sen. Coburn: I won’t challenge Trump, I’ll vote for him MORE (R-Okla.) blamed both sides for the impasse, and said the inability to reach a more amicable accommodation reflects a failure of leadership in both parties.

"What we're about to see today carried out is the placing of partisan principles on both sides of the aisle ahead of the principle of advice and consent and the Senate's role," Coburn said.

"The real qualities of great leaders is they bring people together of disparate views, and they solve those problems … and they never accept the fact than an impasse is the answer. And what we have cued up to set up today is going to be an impasse.

"And all that does is reflect poorly on the Senate as a whole, and on the leadership of the Senate on the whole, on both sides."