With the number of vacant judicial seats nearing epidemic levels, one legislator is demanding some answers: professional judge-blocker Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
During the Judiciary Committee’s recent hearing on immigration reform, Sen. Cornyn complained that his home state of Texas was suffering from a shortage of immigration judges. Thousands of illegal immigrants cross the Southern border into Texas each year, Cornyn explained, many of them even “wearing some form of turban.”
But not everyone is so concerned about the threat of turban-wearing border-crossers (nomadic Mexican Sikhs maybe?). While immigration judgeships are handled separately from district court judgeships, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) was dubious that Sen. Cornyn was really as concerned about filling vacancies as he claimed. Whitehouse questioned why he was asking for additional immigration judges when he hadn’t even attempted to fill the existing district court vacancies in his state.
I don’t see why you need additional judges when there have been multiple vacancies that have been left without nominees for years.
Sen. Cornyn, who hasn’t recommended a judicial nominee in several years and voted against the confirmations of both of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as a number of the President’s lower federal court nominees, blamed the White House for the vacancies:
Why don’t you tell the White House to nominate some people? … The Constitution provides the president makes a nomination, and we provide advice and consent. So that’s a condition precedent to our ability to act.
If you’re hoping this is the part of the story where some older, takes-no-shit legislator steps in to remind Sen. Cornyn that he’s the one undermining the judicial nomination process in the first place, you shan’t be disappointed. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) explained to Cornyn and fellow Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) that they needed to recommend some candidates before the President would nominate anyone:
Based on 38 years experience here, every judgeship I’ve seen come through this committee during that time has followed recommendations by the senators from the state. You have to have recommendations from the senators.
Cornyn and Cruz pointed out that they had recently created a commission to vet potential judicial nominees. Naturally, Leahy asked whether the commission had actually made any recommendations, to which Cornyn responded:
Well it’s uh, we’re working on that. What is this, May? And we’re trying to, we’re trying — we’re working on that.
I would be happy to help you.