Idaho Judge David Nye won unanimous support from the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning to confirm his nomination to be Idaho’s next U.S. district judge. He and two other judicial nominees were approved on a voice vote, without discussion.
There are 17 other nominees ahead of them, so Nye is highly unlikely to get consideration from the full Senate before it leaves for its August recess at the end of this week. “In the old days, the Senate would have confirmed Nye before it leaves this week for its long summer recess,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor with the University of Richmond School of Law and an expert on judicial selection. Tobias said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has only allowed one final vote per month since the GOP became the majority in the Senate. “The only nominees who leapfrogged were two Iowa nominees; the rest have been in the order they were nominated,” McConnell said.
Idaho has been down to just one active federal district judge since July of 2015, when longtime Judge Edward Lodge took senior status, reducing his caseload. Both Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo Jim Risch have been pushing for not only confirming Nye to replace Lodge – the two senators and the White House agreed on the choice after a long process that included considering and rejecting dozens of other possible nominees – but also for the state to get a third federal district judge, given its caseload. The federal courts have declared a “judicial emergency” in Idaho due to the lack of judicial resources, and out-of-state judges are being brought in to hear Idaho cases.
Crapo and Risch introduced Nye to the Judiciary Committee at his hearing on June 21, highlighted his credentials and unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association, and urged the panel to swiftly approve his nomination.
Lindsay Nothern, spokesman for Crapo, said the two will continue pushing for Nye’s confirmation. “There were a lot of people who said we couldn’t get it out of committee, we couldn’t even get a hearing,” he said. “And we have been pushing, we did get a hearing, we have gotten the committee to approve it. So we’re staying confident that we can get a floor vote and get Judge Nye serving.” However, he acknowledged, “It’s probably not going to happen before the August break.”
Tobias said even to get a vote in September, when the Senate will in session only for a few weeks, will take pressure from the Idaho senators. Nothern said they’re working on it. “I wouldn’t rule out doing it in September,” he said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a statement saying of the nominees approved by the committee today, “There is no reason why they should not have confirmation votes this year.” But he added, “The sharply rising number of judicial vacancies across the country is the direct consequence of Republican leadership neglecting the Senate's duty to ensure the federal judiciary can function. When Senate Republicans took over the majority last year, there were 43 judicial vacancies, 12 of which were emergency vacancies. Because of Republicans' refusal to do their jobs, vacancies have nearly doubled to 83, and emergency vacancies have nearly tripled to 30. In sharp contrast, when Democrats controlled the Senate in the last two years of the Bush administration, we had reduced vacancies to 39 at this same point.”
“Before the seven-week recess the majority Leader has scheduled to begin next week, I hope the chairman can persuade the majority leader to schedule confirmation votes on the more than two dozen judicial nominees pending on the Senate Executive Calendar,” Leahy said. “All of these nominees have bipartisan support and the support of their home state senators.”
Yesterday, Senate Democrats made a push on the Senate floor to quickly confirm 16 pending nominees, but Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., a Judiciary Committee member, objected, preventing the unanimous consent required for such a move.
In a story headlined “McConnell’s historic judge blockade,” Politico reported today that the pace of overall judicial confirmations under McConnell’s leadership “is on track to become the slowest in more than 60 years.”