A handful of Republicans have stood in the way of most confirmation votes in the Senate in reprisal for Obama's recess appointments in January, which they say violated Senate traditions and the Constitution. Because of the Senate's rules, which protect the minority, a single senator can bring the entire process on a vote to a halt for any reason.

Reid did not mention the recess appointments but said Republicans were robbing their constituents of the right to speedy and just trials.

"For tens of millions of Americans the right to equal justice under the law is at risk," said Reid. "I am sorry to say it’s because of Republican ideology."