Traditionally, a President seeks input from a state’s Senators when filling federal court, US Attorney, and US Marshall openings. Also traditionally, when the President and both Senators from a given state are from opposite parties, the state’s Congressional delegation assumes that role. Here’s hoping that actually works here in Texas.
Democrats, with their party in control of the White House, want more input into selecting judges and U.S. attorneys in a system that has been dominated by Republicans for the past eight years.
“We have to be realistic,” said Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, the state’s senior congressional Democrat. “Democrats won the election.”
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, the Democratic congressional delegation chairman, said the Republican senators may offer input, but House lawmakers will recommend candidates for nomination.
“Individuals seeking these positions must have the approval of the Texas Democratic delegation,” said Doggett.
A White House statement confirms the Texas Democratic delegation clout, but it also adds to the ambiguity of the process by saying the “Texas U.S. senators will be accorded a full opportunity to share their views about each candidate whom the president proposes to nominate.”
That led Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, to install their own Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee to screen applicants for judicial districts in the state. It’s the same committee used over the past decade, only the formerly all-Republican panel now has added Democrat members.
Cornyn said the committee process exists to ensure judicial candidates are “the very best lawyers in the state.” A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducts confirmation hearings on judicial nominees, Cornyn said he did not want the process “viewed as a partisan exercise. We want it to be a quality control exercise.”
Cornyn also warned that senators have the power to block any home state nominee to judicial posts — a process known in Senate parlance as rendering a “blue slip.”
I assume they refer to this largely female-free list. I’m happy to let Cornyn and Hutchison have some input, but I hope they’re grownup enough to realize that this isn’t all about them. The President can and should give priority to Democrats for these positions, and as long as the nominees are well qualified, I think our Senators should go along instead of playing partisan games. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. We did finally manage to get Justice Sonia Sotomayor approved, after all. Of course, that happened over Cornyn and Hutchison’s objections. That’s not an option here thanks to the blue slips, so we’ll have to see if they can play nice with everyone else.