The Heritage Foundation
Todd Gaziano and Andrew Kloster
This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced a potential filibuster deal that, among other problematic provisions, limits post-cloture debate on federal district court nominees (and non-Cabinet-level officials).
Senators currently have up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate on the merits of a district court nominee; the new rule would permit only two hours. This proposal would seriously undermine the rights of sitting senators to call attention to problematic district court nominees and, as a consequence, would enable the President to make more philosophically questionable and professionally unqualified nominations in the future.
Providing advice and consent to judicial nominees are critical, constitutionally-enumerated responsibilities of U.S. senators. Those confirmed to a federal judgeship retain their job during “good behavior” (virtually for life), and can only be removed by House impeachment and Senate conviction with a 2/3 vote. If the merits of a cabinet secretary are worthy of 30-hours of debate, then any judge appointed for life should be also.
Federal district court judgeships are incredibly important: not only are they on the short list for circuit and Supreme Court nomination (Justice Sotomayor was a district court judge for the Southern District of New York), but district court judges are on the front lines of enforcing federal law, and perhaps more importantly, sit in judgment on whether Congress or the President have exceeded their enumerated powers.
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