Republicans bring Senate to a halt over judges stalemate

Senate Republicans, angry over the pace of confirming President Bush’s judicial nominees, tied up the floor Wednesday to force Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell and Schumer's relationship shredded after court brawl The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Justice Barrett joins court; one week until Election Day GOP Senate confirms Trump Supreme Court pick to succeed Ginsburg MORE (D-Nev.) to schedule more confirmation votes.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop Senate GOP super PAC makes final .6M investment in Michigan Senate race On The Money: McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 | Lawmakers see better prospects for COVID deal after election Overnight Health Care: House Dem report blasts Trump coronavirus response | Regeneron halts trial of antibody drug in sickest hospitalized patients | McConnell says Congress will take up stimulus package at start of 2021 MORE (R-Ky.) objected on the Senate floor to Reid’s efforts to speed debate on climate change by forcing the clerk to read a 500-page substitute amendment. The move comes after weeks of Republican threats to employ parliamentary tactics to force Democrats to confirm at least 15 appellate court nominees by the end of this Congress, the historical average in the last two years of recent presidencies. So far, the Democratic Congress has approved eight judges to the appellate bench.


The Kentucky Republican gave a stern press conference in which he accused Reid of breaking a promise to confirm those judges, including three appeals court judges he expected to be confirmed before the Memorial Day break.

McConnell refused to say what additional tactics the GOP would use once the amendment is read, a process that tied up the floor for much of Wednesday. He suggested Democrats are holding out until the end of the Bush presidency. Republicans, McConnell said, have no problem prolonging the climate change debate over this matter.

"Commitments are important, and commitments have not been kept," McConnell said. "The reason the clerks are reading the substitute this afternoon is to give the majority time to contemplate and consider the importance of keeping your word in this body. The solution to the problem is to get 15 circuit judges."

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said that stall tactics were a sign of things to come if more nominees are not confirmed.

"This is going to really slow this place down, if not grind it to a halt," Brownback said.

Reid insists he never made a guarantee, saying he tried to confirm the three appeals judges but Republicans effectively stalled one nominee they opposed by burdening her with too many written questions. Democrats say Congress has confirmed the vast majority of Bush’s nominees, and argue that the White House has intentionally floated polarizing nominees to energize the conservative base.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley called McConnell's attack "baseless" and said Republicans are "devoid of ideas for addressing global warming and unwilling to work with us to strengthen our weakening economy and energy policy." Manley also said it was the GOP's obstruction on the Judiciary Committee that prevented more judicial confirmations.

"As a result, it was impossible to have the Senate consider these two additional nominees before the recess, despite Sen. Reid’s best efforts," Manley said. "Any successful deal requires good faith by both sides — in this case, unfortunately, our willingness was not matched by the other side."

Wednesday’s move also angered Democrats, who are trying to lay the groundwork for a major debate on climate change.

“I asked [that] the reading be dispensed with,” bill manager Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance Bottom line Polls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday MORE (D-Calif.) said sternly on the floor.

But Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Pollsters stir debate over Trump numbers GOP faces fundraising reckoning as Democrats rake in cash The Memo: Texas could deliver political earthquake MORE of Texas, a member of Republican leadership, objected, saying Republicans needed more time to review the bill.

Republicans say that if Democrats continue to drag their feet, the GOP will be more likely to block Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBerlin's Madame Tussauds places wax Trump in a dumpster ahead of election New poll shows Biden leading Trump by 6 points in North Carolina Who is 'Anonymous' author Miles Taylor? MORE's (D-Ill.) judicial nominees should he win the presidency in November.

Democrats and their allies off Capitol Hill balk at that threat.

"It makes me wonder if we will continue to hear Sen. McConnell clamor to fill ‘emergency vacancies’ if a Democrat is in the White House next year?" said Nan Aron, president of the liberal group Alliance for Justice.