National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan is trying to aid the unprecedented obstruction tactics Senate Republicans are using to block President Obama's nominees.
On June 20, 2012, American Bar Association president William T. Robinson III sent a letter to Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging that the Senate hold confirmation votes on three judicial nominees who had strong bipartisan support but were being blocked despite the merits of their nominations. Whelan, a blogger with significant influence in the media and Capitol Hill, responded to the letter by saying: "A Senate staffer in the know tells me that the ABA never sent a similar letter on behalf of George W. Bush's nominees."
But it would have been impossible for the ABA to send a "similar letter" on behalf of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees, because Bush's judicial nominees were not subject to the type of obstruction experienced by the Obama nominees in question.
As the ABA noted in its letter, Obama nominees William Kayatta, Jr., Robert Bacharach, and Richard Taranto "are consensus nominees who have received overwhelming approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee." In addition, Kayatta and Bacharach have "the staunch support of" the Republican senators from their home states. And Taranto, who is nominated to a court with nationwide jurisdiction, has the "endorsement of noted conservative legal scholars."
Nevertheless, Senate Republicans have announced that they are blocking all three of these nominees along with every single one of Obama's judicial nominees until after the presidential election, regardless of whether they would be good judges.
This level of obstruction has no precedent during the Bush administration. Since 1980, in fact, judicial confirmations have often continued through the summer and early fall of a presidential election year.
In 2004, when Bush ran for reelection and Republicans narrowly controlled the Senate, Democrats allowed the Senate to confirm every single non-controversial Bush appellate nominee. Furthermore, Senate Democrats even allowed Republicans to confirm a nominee who was opposed by a majority of the Democratic caucus.
On June 24, 2004, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Bush appellate court nominee Diane Sykes even though 27 of the 49 Senate Democrats opposed her nomination. On the same day, the Senate also confirmed the nominations of appellate court judges Peter Hall and William Duane Benton.
Following those confirmations, there were no Bush appellate court nominees left that did not have significant Democratic opposition or other problems preventing their confirmations. Of the 12 appellate court nominees pending on July 1, 2004, one, Claude Allen, withdrew after being caught shoplifting; six, Terrence Boyle, Richard Griffin, Susan Neilson, Henry Saad, David McKeague, and Carolyn Kuhl did not have the support of their home state Democratic senators; four, Priscilla Owen, Brett Kavanaugh, William Myers, and Janice Rogers Brown, had strong opposition from Senate Democrats; and one, Thomas Griffith was nominated in May 2004 and did not have a hearing until after the election.
Unlike Republicans' treatment of Obama nominees, Democrats allowed all non-controversial Bush nominees to have a vote in 2004. Therefore, contrary to Whelan's criticism, it would not have been possible for the ABA to have sent a similar letter on behalf of Bush's judicial nominees.