Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that he was filing a cloture petition to attempt to force Senate votes on 17 federal trial court judge nominees, including out gay attorney Michael W. Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald, who was nominated by President Obama in July 2011 for a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, had a hearing in October 2011 and was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee to the full Senate without opposition on Nov. 3, 2011.
In addressing the issue, Reid today said on the Senate floor, "One qualified consensus judicial nominee ought to be treated like any other, regardless of political party and regardless of who's president, quite frankly. With our courts already in crisis, the Republicans couldn't have chosen a worse time to play politics with the confirmation process.
"So, today I regret that I have to file cloture on a package of 17 district court judges. I hope that we can move through these. I hope that people aren't going to be doing more dilatory tactics," he continued. "If cloture is invoked, people have a right, under our rules, to hold up the next judge in line for 30 hours. That will show what this is all about: It will show it's an effort to embarrass the president and not take into consideration 116 million people [living in districts with declared] who don't have the ability to have their cases tried in an orderly manner."
According to the list posted by Democrats today, Fitzgerald would be the third of the 17 nominees to be considered.
According to Politico, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart argued that Democrats are responsible for the vacancy rate on the federal courts. President Barack Obama has only nominated people for 39 of the 83 vacancies on federal courts, and about half of those are awaiting final action in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Politico cites Stewart as having said.
People For the American Way stated in a news release that there were only two filibusters of district court nominations during the 16 years that Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were in office.
"It is absolutely stunning that Republicans are willing to tie up Senate business for more than 510 hours just to make things more difficult for President Obama," PFAW's Marge Baker said in a statement. "For the past three years, Senate Republicans have been slow-walking judicial nominees at every step of the process, ignoring the duties they were elected to office to perform and contributing to a historic vacancy crisis in our federal courts."
The Senate previously has confirmed two out LGBT lawyers nominated by Obama, Judges Paul Oetken and Alison Nathan, both of whom sit on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Obama withdrew the name of one nominee, appellate nominee Edward DuMont, after the Senate refused to act on the nomination.