The Rachel Maddow Show | May 07, 2012
>>> tonight t united states senate voted three new judges to the federal bench . testimony votes weren't close. by a final vote of 91-3. ja jackeline will been o court. john lee will be on a court in illinois. christine g. baker was confirmed for a district court seat in arkansas. there was no controversy in getting them out of the senate judiciary committee either. this uncontroversial thing that the senators did tonight is the most difficult thing to get done in the current united states senate . tonight's vote only came about as a result of a deal senate majority leader harry reid struck back in march. he agreed to hold it on a republican bill in order to get republicans to agree too vote on two judicial nominations a week. that deal runs out today which means we'll be back to the broken status quo. rendered in shocking detail in a new report released today. the alliance for justice released findings on how dysfunctional they have come. vacancies were double what they were. nearly one out of ten federal judgeships are empty. that is not to be the case in a president's term. vacancies on the federal bench declined by more than half, by 57%. in president bush 's term they declined by 0%. current vacancies on the bench have gone up, not down. they have risen by 43%. i think this bears repeating. at this point in clinton's presidency vacancies declined 57%. at this point in bush's presiden presidency, they declined 60%. at this point in the obama administration vacancies have increased by 43%. this isn't just run of mill politics and a case of everybody does it. things aren't just bad, they are historically bad. there are consequences for that. two of the confirmations were for district court seats. the majority of federal cases are filed in district courts . leave enough of those seats em empty and that creates emergencies where there aren't enough judges to keep up with the workload. at the beginning of obama's presidency there were 20 emergencies. there are now 34. that's an increase of 70%. the republicans have threw sheer implaquable will and reputation converted extraordinary obstruction into something ordinary and routine. a vicious soocycle sets in. my next guest is trying to get the media to see this for what sit, an unprecedented crisis. the report is, i will admit myself to finding myself thinking this is run of mill and we've had these oscillating periods in which one party is controlling the senate and the white house and they try to do what they can. what makes this period different? why is it so much different than the first three years or first three and a half years of clinton and bush?
>> what makes it so different is that republicans are engaging in an unprecedented level of obstructionism. it's pure politics. even nominees who they support they're actually blocking and preventing votes on. today, if you look at those 14 nominees who were confirmed over the pass several weeks, we see that all of those nominees were pending on the floor last year. that just tells you how far back this senate is. there was a meeting today at the white house . i was gratified to see so many people activists from around the country who are involved in judicial nominations there to ask the white house to press for the confirmation of judges as well as put names for all of these vacancies in the pipeline before the end of the year.
>> if it's just matter of the republicans being unprecedented in the way they have gone about this, what does that mean? what are the tools they are using and why would they do something like block nominees they support?
>> they block nominees for the main reason of leaving as many vacancies on the bench with the hope that a future republican party will come in and fill them. we saw this with the, at the end of the clinton administration . there were 61 nominees that never got a vote. george w. bush came into office and all those vacancies were filled. this is a very well orchestrated strategy.
>> why are the republicans better at blocking judicial nominees and stone walling and using them tactics than demonstrates seem to be?
>> i think we've seen with brown versus board of education and roe versus wade a very organized right wing constituency of the republican party that cares passionately about the courts and they are joined in their passion by republican senators. i should say that today i was really pleased to see so many activists and a white house pledging to press ahead despite republican filibusters which we'll see, press ahead for the confirmation. i think it's an wakening on the part of progressives that this is important. nominees despite best efforts to curtail these votes or eliminate them. that was good to hear.
>> but what does that mean? it has now become the case that you need to get above 60 to essentially put an end to whatever techniques they are using to stall and obstruct and you don't have those 60 votes, what do you do? do you put just political pressure? is it a matter of the president taking the rose guarden and for democratic lawmakers to make this an issue at the top of the priority?
>> pressing ahead is a few things. one, it's the president talking about judges and talking about why courts matter. it's activists lobbying and pressuring home state senators to press for votes. it's individuals pressing for harry reed to call up these votes. we have 19 nominees pending on the senate floor. we are calling on the majority leader to begin to schedule votes on each and every of the nominees as well as future nominees that are pending.
>> we have a great new report today. check it out on their website.
>> thanks so much.
>> right after this show, how chris kristy's vice presidential prospect compares.
>> and hear a rocker who actually sticks it to the man. the best new thing in the world. watch and learn, ted nugent . ttd#