THE SENATE THIS WEEK RETURNS from its August recess, but as far as federal-court nominees are concerned, senators might just as well have stayed on vacation.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts says that President Bush has made nominations to fill 29 of the 33 current vacancies on the U.S. District Courts and 16 of the 19 vacancies on the U.S. Courts of Appeals.
Seven district court nominations and five appeals court nominations have been approved by the Judiciary Committee and are waiting for a vote by the full Senate. These include three already being blocked by a filibuster. Senate sources say there will be more votes to end these filibusters, though analysts predict Democrats will add as many as seven more nominees to the filibuster list by the end of the year.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than three dozen nominations have not had a Judiciary Committee hearing. The longest pending is Terrence Boyle, nominated by President Bush on May 9, 2001, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) in July made a motion to discharge four nominees from the Judiciary Committee, where Democrats have blocked hearings for nearly two years. A discharge motion requires only a simple majority to pass, but it can (and almost certainly would) be filibustered.