The partisan standoff on judges is starting threaten our ability to administer justice. Nearly 1 in 8 federal judgeships are currently vacant, the LA Times reports, as Senate Republicans block many of President Obama’s nominees. Just 47% of Obama’s nominees have been approved—the lowest rate in 30 years by a wide margin (84% for Clinton, 79% for W, 93% for Reagan). “Their objections often are unrelated to a specific nominee,” complains an assistant attorney general, who warns that at this rate, half of the nation's 876 posts could be vacant within a decade.
Republicans admit they’re out for payback for Democrats’ efforts to scuttle some George W. Bush nominees. But they also blame Obama for not nominating enough judges. There are just 39 pending nominees to fill 102 open seats. “Republicans can’t block something that’s not there,” says a Mitch McConnell spokesman. Part of the reason Obama’s been slow to nominate, legal experts say, is because he runs his nominees by the American Bar Association—a tradition Bush eschewed.