“I think they see the door closing,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond Law School. “They would like it to be more balanced.”
Mr. Tobias said the “bottlenecks” over judicial confirmations are likely to continue as Republicans use other tactics to block Mr. Obama’s nominees and force him to choose candidates who are more to their liking. He said the “sticking point” is over court vacancies in states with one or two Republican senators, who can stop nominations with the “blue slip” procedure. When home-state senators don’t return a blue slip for a nominee, the nomination doesn’t proceed.
“There are a whole bunch of vacancies clustered in Texas and Kentucky,” Mr. Tobias said. “It’s not an accident that those are places where you have one or two Republican senators.
Black lawmakers weigh in
Mr. Obama’s dealings with Republican senators over judicial nominations in their states have led to criticism from black lawmakers that the president isn’t appointing enough minority candidates. The Congressional Black Caucus last week complained to presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett about nominees such as Michael Boggs and Mark H. Cohen of Georgia.
Judge Boggs is a former state legislator who supported restrictions on access to abortion, voted to keep the Confederate battle flag as part of the state flag, and supported a proposed ban on same-sex marriage. Mr. Cohen, who worked as chief of staff in the Senate to Democrat Zell Miller, has defended Georgia’s voter ID law in court.
The president reportedly appointed the two as part of a deal last year with Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia to get a group of judges approved, to the ire of civil rights leaders.
In spite of the elimination of the filibuster, the Republicans’ stalling tactics on nominees appear to be getting the attention of Democrats and their supporters.
The Alliance for Justice, which cited abolishing the filibuster as one of its top 10 lobbying victories of 2013, is now urging Senate Democrats to change its rules to speed up votes on pending judicial nominations.
Mr. Kloster said the focus on nominees’ backgrounds ought to be irrelevant.
“Any president should consider and nominate judicial candidates based solely on their character and fitness, their competency and their integrity,” he said. “And the Senate should confirm candidates who have integrity, never mind where they come from.”