Republicans have engineered another politically motivated delay in New Jersey. But this time it doesn’t involve how long it takes to get across the George Washington Bridge. This time, it’s all about how long it takes for judges to get onto the federal bench.
Take the case of Julien Neals. His seemingly endless wait for a committee vote has finally ended. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved his nomination this morning, along with that of four others— Rebecca Ebinger for the Southern District of Iowa, Leonard Strand for the Northern District of Iowa, Gary Brown for the Eastern District of New York, and Mark Young for the Central District of California.
Neals was nominated to fill a judicial emergency eight months ago but Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley forced him to wait more than seven months for a hearing. Grassley then delayed consideration of a vote for yet another month despite there being no opposition to Neals. During that time, New Jersey’s vacancy total grew to four, all of which are now judicial emergencies. (Of note, Grassley didn’t subject his own Iowa nominees to such delay; they were quickly voted out of committee today just two weeks after their confirmation hearing, and SD IA nominee Rebecca Ebinger had a confirmation hearing just over a month after her nomination.)
Indeed, New Jersey has been especially harmed by the Republican-engineered vacancy crisis. Four of the court’s 17 judgeships have become vacant during 2015, and the four emergencies are part of a 142 percent increase nationwide since Republicans took control of the Senate in January. John Vazquez, nominated to the same court in March, waited four months for a hearing, another two months for a vote in committee, and has now been awaiting a floor vote for six weeks. Brian Martinotti, another nominee to the court, waited a comparably short three months before being allowed a hearing and a month for a committee vote. The months-long delays of the three New Jersey nominees illustrate some of the barriers Senate Republicans have erected to prevent quick and timely confirmations.
After today’s vote, there are 16 nominees pending on the Senate floor and still 13 nominees held up in the Judiciary Committee. Ten of those in committee were nominated at least three months ago, including Mary Barzee Flores who was nominated over eight months ago to a judicial emergency in the Southern District of Florida and still hasn’t had a hearing. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio—recently called on by the Sun Sentinel to “either do [his] job or resign” —is withholding his blue slip to unilaterally block her nomination without explanation.
Today’s committee vote is progress but not nearly enough. Despite a long list of non-controversial pending nominees, the Senate has confirmed only nine judges in 2015, the slowest pace in 55 years. There’s no justification for Senate Republicans to further delay confirming all 29 pending nominees.