There is a growing crisis in this country that often goes overlooked in favor of coverage of unemployment and the economy. I believe those topics should be No. 1 on our agenda, but we need our government to be at full strength in order to deal with the many complex issues facing us.
However, many government positions remain vacant because Republicans in the Senate have blocked an unprecedented number of judicial nominees and political appointments from receiving votes. According to the Huffington Post: “[A]s a result of unprecedented Republican political gamesmanship, President Obama ends the first half of his first term with a smaller percentage of his nominees confirmed than any previous president.”
The situation in the federal courts is so dire that Republican-appointed judges have pleaded with the Senate to get on the ball:
In order to do our work, and serve the public as Congress expects us to serve it, we need the resources to carry out our mission. While there are many areas of serious need, we write today to emphasize our desperate need for judges. Our need in that regard has been amply documented (See attached March 2009 Judicial Conference Recommendations for Additional Judgeships). Courts cannot do their work if authorized judicial positions remain vacant.
John Roberts, chief justice of the United States, also noted the dire need for judges in his State of the Judiciary report. Arizona recently declared a judicial emergency; its already overloaded system has become even more taxed after the murder of U.S. District Judge John Roll in the terrorist attack in Tucson on Jan. 8.
Political appointments are also suffering. The Senate had more than 70 waiting for votes when it adjourned last month. President Obama has the power to go around the Senate and confirm the nominees by recess appointments, but so far he has done that with only a handful of positions. Republicans object to the president using his power in this way, but they can’t expect key positions to remain vacant forever. They have had plenty of time to review the nominations; they just refuse to vote on them.
I, for one, wish Obama would confirm more of his nominees this way. Republicans can complain all they want, but it’s irresponsible to let vital jobs go unfilled for months. They can refuse to act but they shouldn’t be surprised when Obama does what he wants without their input.