Chairing Judiciary Committee nominations hearing, calls for more rapid Senate consideration of nominees
Chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on five nominees to the federal bench on Wednesday, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) warned that today's nearly unprecedented cloture vote on district court judicial nominee Jack McConnell risks derailing the bipartisan progress that the Senate has made to increase the pace of judicial confirmations.
"I am disheartened that the Senate stands poised to spend 30 hours over the coming days engaged in protracted, post-cloture "debate' regarding the nomination of one U.S. District Court judge," Senator Coons said. "To have to file cloture on a district court nominee who has the unanimous support of his home state senators is nearly unprecedented."
Nearly 10 percent of all federal judgeships -- 93 in all -- are currently vacant. Of those, 37 are considered "judicial emergencies" because they have been open for more than 18 months, forcing other judges on those courts to shoulder an overly burdensome caseload.
"Today, Attorney General Holder testified before this very committee that the number of vacancies has created a crisis in our courts," Senator Coons said in his opening statement at the nominations hearing. "This is not a partisan issue -- Chief Justice Roberts has similarly noted that the vacancies are causing acute difficulties for some judicial districts."
Senator Coons called on the Senate to help alleviate the vacancy crisis by acting on the 44 judicial nominations pending in the Senate, calling the majority "wholly noncontroversial" and urging they be confirmed at once.