WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reportedly reached an agreement that will delay cloture votes on 17 judicial nominations.
According to a report on Politico, Reid, D-Nev., and McConnell, R-Ky., announced their agreement on the Senate floor Wednesday but won't provide any details until their respective caucuses are briefed.
"(McConnell) will explain to his caucus. I will explain to mine, but it's something I feel is in keeping with what we need to do here," said Reid, according to Politico. "It was something that like all matters we do here legislatively (was) an effort to work out a compromise."
Reid filed for cloture on the 17 nominations on Monday. One of those, West Virginia's Gina Groh, has been waiting months. She was nominated in May to fill the vacancy left by the 2006 death of Judge Craig Broadwater.
In October, her nomination was reported out of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on a unanimous, bipartisan vote.
Considered "well-qualified" and "non-controversial," Groh has been waiting nearly five months to be confirmed by the full Senate.
Senate Democrats say the first cloture vote -- most likely Groh -- could occur one hour after the Senate convenes on Wednesday.
Reid, in opening remarks to the Senate floor Monday, pointed out that 11 of the 17 are nominees from judicial emergency states.
"The kind of qualified consensus nominees that in years past would have been confirmed in days or weeks now languish for months and months with no action," the senior senator from Nevada said.
"There are judges on this list that go back to November of last year. Not because we couldn't have done it. These could be confirmed in a matter of minutes. The votes should be routine. They shouldn't be a fight that delays action on important jobs measures."
He continued, "Creating jobs is the Senate's No. 1 priority. Republican obstructionism is the only thing standing in the way of moving forward with additional work to get our economy back on track. Unfortunately, Republicans have forced our hand. What else can we do?"
In an effort to further move along the 17 nominations, Reid asked Tuesday morning that the Senate proceed to executive session and vote on their confirmations.
McConnell objected to Reid's request.
Some GOP senators are still fuming over the president's decision in January to make a controversial recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to the post of director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The CFPB was created by the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul and is tasked with regulating consumer financial products.
Democrats, including Obama, argued Republicans were "stonewalling" Cordray's nomination.
So, Obama went ahead and appointed Cordray. In turn, some Republican senators have threatened to hold up Obama's nominations.
"I think it's unclear exactly what will happen this week, but I'm still optimistic that Groh will get a vote soon," University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said.
"The only reason she wouldn't is because she's the point person, the first one up. She's simply caught in the middle of all of this."
However, the law professor said he expects West Virginia's two U.S. senators, Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, to take the floor Wednesday to speak strongly on her behalf.
But what does all of this mean for West Virginia attorney Stephanie Thacker?
Thacker was nominated by Obama in September to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Thacker would replace Judge M. Blane Michael, who died earlier this year. Michael had held the position since 1993.
The Senate Judiciary Committee in November approved Thacker's nomination to the federal appeals court.
However, like Groh, she has waited several months to be confirmed by the full Senate.
Tobias, who has said Thacker could get a vote this month, noted that appellate nominees have been treated differently than district nominees.
"There's always more scrutiny with appellate nominees," he said.
"And Reid hasn't decided what to do yet about the appellate nominees. At least we know he is going to try to move these nominees first. He could do the same with appellate nominees, but we just don't know."
He added, "It really depends on these 17. Are they going to move quickly or not? Are they going to vote for cloture on each one? Are they going to have 30 hours of debate on each one?"
The GOP, Tobias said, may decide it's going to vote for cloture after all. "But it's hard to know. After Wednesday, things should be clearer."
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