(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued a statement after the Senate voted 52-48 to change its rules with regard to confirming federal judicial nominees. The rule change, or so called “constitutional option,” lowers the vote threshold to confirm judicial nominees from 60 to 51. Blumenthal voted for the rule change, which will end the longest period of high-rate vacancy at the federal district and appellate court level in 35 years.
“The historic, profoundly significant step taken today will help make government work better – and avert a constitutional crisis resulting from some senators’ refusal to consider nominees on their merits. Unprecedented, unacceptable abuse of the filibuster rule has blocked supremely qualified public servants from filling necessary judgeships and positions on the president’s executive team. Many key executive positions and more than 90 judgeships are vacant, including one-quarter of the entire D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, because of obstructionist opposition exploiting the 60-vote threshold required simply to have an up-or-down vote on a nominee. Americans want action and this very positive rule change will enable it. With this commonsense change, the Senate will work more like other legislative bodies and as Americans do commonly – by approving nominees with simple majority, up-or-down votes.”
Eleven percent of the country’s federal district and appellate court benches have remained vacant for four years, the longest period of vacancy in the past 35 years. Throughout the history of the U.S. Congress, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations, and half of them have occurred during the last four and a half years of the Obama Administration.