What the Senate Did – And Did Not Do – on Monday

U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C.On Monday,  the Senate confirmed Paula Xinis to a seat on the District of Maryland.  The confirmation vote was notable for a number of reasons.  First, a conservative legal group – and consequently, a number of Republican Senators – objected to Judge Xinis’ confirmation because of her background as a federal public defender and her current work as a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer – despite her unanimous Well-Qualified rating from the ABA and the fact that the Senate Judiciary Committee had advanced her nomination without objection.   Another notable fact:   now-Judge Xinis is only the 7th judge to be confirmed in 2016.  The Senate did not vote on any other nominees, even though there are 14 other  judicial nominees ready for a Senate vote (and over 40 nominees pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee).  Thanks to the Senate Republicans’ foot-dragging on scheduling confirmation votes this year, the number of Article III judicial vacancies on the federal bench has ballooned to 80.
In addition, Judge Xinis’ confirmation occurred the same day that the Supreme Court handed down its decision (or lack thereof) in Zubik v. Burwell. In that case, the Justices vacated the decisions of the lower courts and remanded the cases for further consideration of whether employers can block women from getting essential birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  Zubik is just one more example of how much the Supreme Court’s decisions matter to women, and why it is imperative that the Court be operating at full force.  So add one more thing that the Senate Republicans did not do yesterday:  move forward on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
The Senate’s inaction on nominees at all levels of our federal courts has consequences.  People coming to the courts around the country must wait for justice, overburdened judges struggle to manage their cases, and the highest court in the land is deciding issues of critical importance to women without a full complement of Justices.  Senate Republicans need to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities and #DoYourJob.