There are just days left before Congress concludes its lame duck session and heads home for the holidays, but that isn’t stopping a coalition of progressive organizations in Florida from urging Senator Marco Rubio to act when it comes to the logjam of judicial nominees.
The Florida Why Courts Matter coalition on Thursday delivered a letter to the Miami Republican, calling on him to “work to end the obstruction of federal judicial nominees, starting with a full and fair hearing and an up-or-down vote this lame duck session on Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.” The coalition also called on Rubio and the Senate to “fulfill its constitutional duty by acting on the other lingering judicial vacancies in our federal courts, including six here in Florida, and by holding up-or-down votes on the 25 lower court nominees that have been vetted and approved by the bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee and their home state senators.”
The letter was signed by eight Florida civic engagement organizations, including Equality Florida, the Florida Alliance of Retired Network, Progress Florida, and Florida NOW.
The Florida Why Courts Matter Coalition has been pressing Rubio to address the of the lack of progress by the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee when it comes to confirming justices nominated by President Obama to the federal bench.
In August, the group reported that under President Obama, 82 nominees had been filibustered, compared to 86 nominees blocked under all the other presidents combined.
Most famous has been the case of Garland, who was nominated by Obama to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court back in March. Senate Republican leaders immediately announced their their intention not to vote on the nomination, arguing that they thought the next president should fill the vacancy because it came in the middle of a presidential election season and so late in Obama’s final term.
President-elect Donald Trump is expected to announce immediately when he takes the reins of power his nominee to replace Scalia on the high court.
Here’s the letter sent to Rubio:
December 8, 2016
The Honorable Marco Rubio
United States Senate
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510
Dear Senator Rubio:
On behalf of The Florida Why Courts Matter coalition and other Florida civic engagement organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Floridians, we’re writing to urge you to work to end the obstruction of federal judicial nominees, starting with a full and fair hearing and an up-or-down vote this lame duck session on Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In addition the Senate should fulfill its constitutional duty by acting on the other lingering judicial vacancies in our federal courts, including six here in Florida, and by holding up-or-down votes on the 25 lower court nominees that have been vetted and approved by the bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee and their home state senators.
The Constitution gives the President the responsibility to nominate justices to the Supreme Court, and gives the Senate the responsibility to provide “advice and consent” on those nominees. President Obama nominated the eminently qualified Chief Judge Garland more than 260 days ago, but you and your colleagues in the Senate Republican leadership have refused to even consider his nomination. Since 1975, it has taken an average of 42 days after nomination for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominees, and an average of 67 days for the full Senate to vote. It has never taken more than 125 days, until now.
This unprecedented obstruction is destructive, as it forces the Supreme Court to operate with only eight justices. During the Supreme Court term in 2015, the Court deadlocked in several important cases, such as U.S. v Texas, leaving millions of undocumented immigrants in limbo. In Zubik v Burwell, the Supreme Court did not issue a final ruling on whether employers can deny their employees birth control coverage. In other instances, the Court apparently is avoiding deadlock by not taking important cases in the first place. Allowing the vacancy to continue even further into a second term of the Court is dangerous and could leave critical issues, such as health care, immigration, and voting rights, unresolved. There is an urgent need for the Senate to do its job and convene a hearing on Chief Judge Garland’s nomination and other pending nominations.
We are also deeply troubled that the Senate has refused to act on numerous lower court vacancies. Judicial emergencies have skyrocketed from 12 at the start of this Congress to 38 today. In Florida there are currently six vacancies, and four of those are emergencies. The refusal of the Senate to address these vacancies threatens the stability and fairness of our justice system and delays justice for Floridians seeking their day in court.
Floridians are counting on you to push Senate leadership to do their job and fill these long-standing court vacancies. Now that the election is behind us, we urge you to join us in calling for a hearing and confirmation vote on Chief Judge Merrick Garland and other federal court nominees during the lame duck session.
Clean Water Action
Kathy Aterno, Director
Nadine Smith, Co-founder and CEO
Florida Alliance of Retired Americans
Bill Sauers, President
Florida Consumer Action Network
Susan McGrath, Executive Director
Florida National Organization of Women (Florida NOW)
Terry Sanders, President
National Council of Jewish Women (Florida Chapter)
Linda Geller-Schwartz, Florida State Policy Advocate
Stephanie Porta, Executive Director
Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director