After a lackluster record of nominating judges in his first term, President Obama greeted the 113th Congress on Thursday by renominating 33 judicial candidates who failed to be confirmed in the last Congress.
The president said his list of nominees includes “many who could have and should have been confirmed before the Senate adjourned.”
“Several have been awaiting a vote for more than six months, even though they all enjoy bipartisan support,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “I continue to be grateful for their willingness to serve and remain confident that they will apply the law with the utmost impartiality and integrity. I urge the Senate to consider and confirm these nominees without delay, so all Americans can have equal and timely access to justice.”
The list includes Caitlin Halligan, a former New York state solicitor general, whom the president has nominated for a seat on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Mr. Obama first nominated her in September 2010 but Senate Republicans have blocked her confirmation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has objected to Ms. Halligan as a judicial activist, saying she views the court as a means of advancing a social agenda. Mr. McConnell argued, for example, that Ms. Halligan as New York solicitor general “advanced the dubious legal theory” that gun manufacturers could be held legally responsible for crimes committed with firearms.
The Senate Judiciary Committee reported her nomination favorably on a 10-8 vote in February 2011. But her confirmation was blocked in December 2011 when Senate Democrats fell six votes short of the 60 needed to proceed to a floor vote.
In a statement shortly after the Senate vote, Mr. Obama accused Republicans of undermining the judicial confirmation process for partisan purposes.
“Her nomination fell victim to the Republican pattern of obstructionism that puts party ahead of country,” Mr. Obama said at the time.
There are 75 vacancies on the federal bench, compared with 53 when Mr. Obama took office in January 2009. The president has blamed much of the slow pace of judicial confirmations on Senate Republicans, but some of Mr. Obama’s liberal supporters also say the president hasn’t nominated enough candidates or lobbied aggressively for his nominees.
Other nominees who have been blocked by Senate Republicans include Judge Robert E. Bacharach, chosen for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Jill A. Pryor, nominated for a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In all, Mr. Obama renominated seven candidates for appeals courts, 24 for U.S. District Court seats and two people to sit on the Court of International Trade.