If you don’t like the court’s decisions, change the people making them! That seems to be Barack Obama’s philosophy, as he gets ready to pick one of the biggest fights of his presidency with Republicans.
After simmering in the background for a few months, the issue of judicial nominations is about to boil over. Instead of working within the current system, the President is preparing his troops to tear down the old Senate rules and relax the process for confirming judges.
For the Obama administration, flooding the courts with activist liberals would be the single most effective way to accomplish the President’s agenda. It would also give the White House’s extreme ideology a more permanent grip on the courts, since most judges have infinitely longer terms than he does. As most experts predicted, his primary target is the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered by many the second most important bench in America (next to the U.S. Supreme Court). Unlike so many appellate courts, the D.C. Circuit is one of the more balanced benches in the country — which is a good thing, since it hears a majority of the challenges to executive rules and regulations.
Of the court’s 11 seats, three are vacant. But of the remaining eight, four are held by Republican-appointed judges and four by Democratic-appointed ones (the Senate just confirmed the fourth, Sri Srinivasian, last week). Those three empty seats might be concerning if the Court were one of the busier circuits in America. It isn’t. This bench heard 108 appeals per judge last year, the Wall Street Journal points out — four times less than the Second and Eleventh Circuits. And the workload is still “trending down.” “Even if the court had only eight authorized judges, the docket would still be among the lightest in the country,” write the WSJ editors.
What’s more, not one of those vacancies is considered a “judicial emergency,” the term used by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to describe benches that have waited years — some as many as eight — for replacements. Knowing that, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is suggesting a compromise: moving the D.C. circuit seats to the benches that need them most.
That won’t fly with this President, who is fixated on tipping the scales of the D.C. Circuit. And considering how its judges embarrassed him in January, most people aren’t surprised. Remember, this is the court that unanimously struck down the President’s “recess” appointments and scolded him for trying to sneak nominees past the Senate when it wasn’t in recess. That stung, and now the sulking White House is setting out to pack the court with people more agreeable to its lawbreaking.
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The entire plan, however, hinges on the U.S. Senate. The only way to ease the rules on judicial confirmations would be for Majority Leader Harry Reid to find 51 Senators (50, if you count the Vice President’s tie-breaker) who are willing to lower the threshold for approving nominees. A slam dunk, right? Wrong. Even as the majority, a lot of Democrats are squeamish about changing the Senate process. Some are worried (and rightly so) that what goes around, comes around. If Republican leaders get their act together and win control of the White House or Senate — or both — the same rules would come back to haunt Democrats. With leaders like Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) opposed to the idea, the vote would be a nail-biter.
Still, if Sen. Reid prevails, the President would immediately pull the trigger on three D.C. Circuit Court nominees. It’s a dangerous proposition, especially in a country that’s about to be reminded how important our courts are. When the Supreme Court rules on the fate of marriage in the next few weeks, maybe more Americans will wake up to the gravity of the President’s threat.
LifeNews Note: Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council.