The U.S. Senate won’t vote to confirm a new federal judge for Idaho until September – at the earliest.
Congress left for summer recess Friday and the confirmation of David Nye was among its unfinished business.
The inaction keeps Idaho with one active federal judge as its has been since July 3, 2015.
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Republicans, have been pushing for not only confirming Nye to replace U.S. District Judge Edward 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 single-judge status.
This year’s congressional recess is the longest since the August recesses began in 1971.
Typically such recesses, which allow members time to meet with constituents and be back in their districts, last until Labor Day and are about 32 days long. This year’s recess takes in half of July as well, at 50 days.
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s action on Nye came on Thursday, but Crapo’s spokesman, Lindsay Nothern, acknowledged there was little chance then of a floor vote before the long summer break.
“There were a lot of people who said we couldn’t get it out of committee, we couldn’t even get a hearing,” Nothern 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.”
Carl Tobias, a law professor with the University of Richmond School of Law and an expert on judicial selection, said last week, “In the old days, the Senate would have confirmed Nye before it leaves this week for its long summer recess.” But current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has slowed the pace of judicial confirmations, he said; Nye has 17 other nominees ahead of him awaiting full Senate votes.
There’s also been much friction in the Senate over the majority’s refusal to hold hearings on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. But some district and circuit court nominees still have gotten consideration.
Tobias said even to get a vote in September, when the Senate will be 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.