- The Washington Times - Monday, June 6, 2016

Sen. Elizabeth Warren accused Senate Republicans Monday of waging a systematic campaign to block nearly all of President Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees.

Ms. Warren, Massachusetts Democrat and one of the left’s most aggressive attack dogs, said Republican stonewalling of Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court is “only the latest example of Senate Republicans’ overall approach to Obama administration nominees.”

“For seven years, Senate Republicans have delayed or blocked votes on key nominations, including district and circuit court judges, key regulators, and foreign policy and national security officials,” she said in a report. “Senate Republicans’ record of obstruction under President Obama is unique in both its scope and intensity.”

Republicans “have waged an unrelenting campaign to keep key positions throughout government empty as long as possible,” she said.

The Alliance for Justice, a progressive advocacy group, has said Senate Republicans are on pace for the lowest number of judicial confirmations in more than 60 years since taking control of the chamber in 2015. There are 91 vacancies for federal judicial seats, including nine on federal appeals courts.

In his first term, Mr. Obama placed 173 judges on the federal bench, compared with 205 for President George W. Bush in his first term and 200 for President Clinton.

Conservative groups declined to comment on the report, but Senate Republicans said Mr. Obama has done better than Mr. Bush at this point in his tenure.

As of the middle of last month, Mr. Obama had 325 of his judicial picks confirmed, compared with 303 for Mr. Bush. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, said he also is on pace to hold the same number of judicial confirmation hearings as Democrats did in the final two years of Mr. Bush’s second term.

In April, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Mr. Obama had “23 more judges than [Mr.] Bush got to this point.”

But an analysis by the Brookings Institution found that judicial vacancies have “skyrocketed” by 112 percent during Mr. Obama’s final two years in office, compared with the final two years of Presidents Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush, and the 27 percent confirmation rate is less than half of what it was for the other three presidents’ final two years in office.

Ms. Warren’s report broadening the accusation of Republican obstructionism marks a change in tactics by Democrats, who have been focused mainly on pushing for a confirmation hearing for Judge Garland.

Amy Brundage, a former White House aide who now serves as a spokeswoman for the Constitutional Responsibility Project, which is seeking Judge Garland’s confirmation, said the report shows that “justice is being pushed to the sidelines to make way for Donald Trump’s hypothetical group of extremist judges who would implement Trump’s radical plan for the country — including banning Muslims, punishing women who have abortions and deporting 11 million immigrants.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it’s ironic that some Senate Republicans have concerns about Mr. Trump’s comments about a federal judge of Mexican ancestry being biased, but Republican lawmakers are holding up Mr. Obama’s judicial nominations to clear the way for Mr. Trump to appoint more judges if he is elected president.

“Here are highly qualified judicial nominees with strong bipartisan support that have been put forward by this president that are being blocked by Republicans in the Senate, solely because these individuals were nominated by a Democratic president,” Mr. Earnest said. “That is entirely inconsistent with the basic responsibility of United States Senate.”

Mr. Obama has been criticized for voting in favor of filibustering the nomination of Supreme Court justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. in 2005. Mr. Earnest said neither party bears total blame for politicizing the judicial confirmation process but it’s “beyond dispute that Republicans have escalated this dispute when it comes to the Supreme Court, and when it comes the nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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