WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked an attempt to confirm 17 nominees for federal judgeships, including one from Tulsa.
The move means Tulsa attorney John E. Dowdell — like Robert E. Bacharach, a U.S. magistrate judge in Oklahoma City — will have to wait until after the Nov. 6 presidential election to find out whether he will be confirmed. Senators and House members are expected to leave Washington this week until mid-November.
Dowdell has been nominated for a U.S. district judgeship in Tulsa and Bacharach for a seat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is a step below the U.S. Supreme Court. Senate Republicans in July blocked an attempt by Democrats to get a vote on Bacharach.
Both Oklahoma nominees sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support and would be easily confirmed if not for presidential politics. Republicans have been blocking votes on judicial nominees for several weeks, hoping Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will win the election and replace President Barack Obama's pending judicial nominees with his own.
Democrats have done the same thing in previous election years, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday they had not blocked district court nominees.
Reid tried Thursday to confirm 17 pending district court nominees by unanimous consent, a fast-track process in which there is no roll call vote.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Obama's first term may end with more judicial vacancies than when it began.
Senators point fingers
Reid's last-ditch effort on the judicial nominees came just a few hours after Republican senators made a series of speeches attacking Obama and Reid for a lack of leadership and inaction on the nation's problems.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, one of about 30 senators who spoke, said the Senate, under Reid, was not confronting the hard decisions that had to be made.
Coburn said the Senate's failure to pass a plan addressing the nation's finances “is an absolute failure of leadership.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “Never before has a president and a Senate done so little to confront challenges so great.”
Reid and other Democrats responded that Republicans had blocked consideration of numerous bills and tried to attach unrelated amendments to others. The first amendment offered on the highway bill, Reid said, was a GOP one on family planning.
Republicans were now holding up consideration of the defense bill, he said. Reid also blamed House Republicans for not taking up legislation that the Senate had managed to pass, including a long-term farm bill.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House would “deal with the farm bill after the elections.”