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U.S. appeals court nominee Robert E. Bacharach may have to be nominated again next year

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn blames “inside politics” for possibility that Bacharach, who has strong bipartisan support, might not be confirmed this year

BY CHRIS CASTEEL Published: December 23, 2012
/articleid/3739965/1/pictures/1913339">Photo - U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Bacharach
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Bacharach

In remarks earlier this month, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Republicans are wrong in claiming there’s a precedent for allowing circuit court nominees to languish during lame-duck sessions.

There were no lame-duck sessions after the presidential elections in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996, Leahy said. After the presidential elections of 2000 and 2008, he said, there were no nominees on the calendar.

In a postelection session in 2002, a year when there wasn’t a presidential race, the Senate confirmed 20 nominees of President George W. Bush, including three circuit court nominees, Leahy said.

What’s unprecedented, Leahy and others have said, is for Republicans to block a nominee like Bacharach, who was nominated by a Democratic president and has strong support from his home-state Republican senators.

The seat for which Bacharach has been nominated has been vacant for 2½ years. By the end of the month, there are expected to be two other vacancies on the 10th Circuit Court.

The current Congress is set to adjourn in the next two weeks, and nominees not cleared would have to be resubmitted.

Jessica Brady, a spokeswoman for Leahy, said that going through the process again for some nominees will delay work on new nominees for months.

“We’re still pushing to get everybody through,” she said.

Brady said she wasn’t familiar with Coburn’s contention that Reid was seeking votes on circuit court nominees in pairs, though that has been the pattern with district court judges in the past few weeks.

Attorney Glenn Sugameli, who tracks the judicial process for the Washington-based Judging the Environment Project, said it was “insane” that a nominee like Bacharach, “who is absolutely unopposed,” can’t get a vote.

“Is there any reason not to vote on him now?” Sugameli said. “There is no reason.”

A spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he didn’t know which nominees Reid would schedule for a vote in the few remaining days of this Congress. The Democratic leadership aide said Republicans hadn’t allowed any of the circuit court nominees to be scheduled.

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