Obstruction for Obstruction's Sake

If you need any more proof that Senate Republicans' sole mission at the moment is to prevent anything from happening in their chamber of Congress, look no further than the fact that today the Senate had to seek cloture on the nomination Barbara Milano Keenan to fill a vacancy on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, resulting in a vote of 99-0.

That's right - not one Republican senator spoke against her qualifications, record, or views or voted to prevent her nomination from receiving an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor ... and yet still they filibustered, forcing Democrats to seek a cloture vote in order to move ahead, simply because they are committed to obstructing the governing process in every way possible.

Earlier today, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy took to the Senate floor to blast the Republicans' refusal to allow the Senate to move on even noncontroversial judicial nominations:

Last year’s total was the fewest judicial nominees confirmed in the first year of a Presidency in more than 50 years. Those 12 Federal circuit and district court confirmations were even below the 17 the Senate Republican majority allowed to be confirmed in the 1996 session. After that presidential election year, Chief Justice Rehnquist began criticizing the pace of judicial confirmations and the partisan Republican tactics.

Among the frustrations is that Senate Republicans have delayed and obstructed nominees chosen after consultation with Republican home state Senators. Despite President Obama’s efforts, Senate Republicans have treated his nominees much, much worse.

I noted when the Senate considered the nominations of Judge Christina Reiss of Vermont and Mr. Abdul Kallon of Alabama relatively promptly that they should serve as the model for Senate action. Sadly, they are the exception rather than the model. They show what the Senate could do, but does not. Time and again, noncontroversial nominees are delayed. When the Senate does finally consider them, they are confirmed overwhelmingly. Of the 15 Federal circuit and district court judges confirmed, twelve have been confirmed unanimously.

That is right. Republicans have only voted against three of President Obama's nominees to the Federal circuit and district courts. One of those, Judge Gerry Lynch of the Second Circuit, garnered only three negative votes and 94 votes in favor. Judge Andre Davis of Maryland was stalled for months and then confirmed with 72 votes in favor and only 16 against. Judge David Hamilton was filibustered in a failed effort to prevent an up-or-down vote.

The obstruction and delay is part of a partisan pattern. Even when they cannot say “no,” Republicans nonetheless demand that the Senate go slow. The practice is continuing. This is the 17th filibuster of President Obama's nominees. That does not count the many other nominees who were delayed or are being denied up-or-down votes by Senate Republicans refusing to agree to time agreements to consider even noncontroversial nominees.

Update: Keenan was confirmed by the same margin: 99-0. So why was the cloture vote even necessary when not one Republican voted against it or her confirmation?