Short Term Thinking
I think it's fairly obvious that the Democrats failed to uhm ... think ahead when they let the middle class tax cut extension go all the way to the end of this year before acting. But then, thinking about how to take advantage of their power to create future political advantages isn't exactly their strong suit. The Republicans, however, think of little else:
As the first congressional session of Obama's presidency draws to a close, what began as a slow process of confirmation has ballooned into a full-blown judicial crisis. The Senate has overseen the slowest pace of judicial staffing in at least a generation, with a paltry 39.8 percent of Obama's judges having been confirmed, according to numbers compiled by Senate Democrats. Of the 103 district and circuit court nominees, only 41 have been confirmed.
By this time in George W. Bush's presidency, the Senate had confirmed 76 percent of his nominees. President Clinton was working at a rate of 89 percent at this point in his tenure.
While the confirmation process is slower now (a function of a packed legislative calendar and Republican obstruction), Obama's nominating pace also lags behind his predecessors. His 103 total nominations compare to 142 by Clinton and 131 by Bush at this same juncture.
Ronald Reagan had twice as many judges confirmed by this time in his presidency, with his 87 confirmations dwarfing Obama's total. George H.W. Bush had moved 70 judges through the Democratic-controlled Senate.
They placed a huge emphasis on court packing over the years and it's paying off in spades for them now. And evidently, the Democrats are willing to let them continue to do it (or at least fail to challenge it) because well ... I don't know. I realize that the Democrats have been dealing with an obstructionist Senate minority, but with all the "deal making" and "compromise" that everyone's telling us is absolutely necessary, it might have been smart to throw some judicial confirmations into the mix.
*The two Supreme Court appointments replaced liberal Justices, which is good, but it doesn't make up for the fact that the lower courts are packed with conservatives and that the retirees aren't being replaced by liberals and they aren't building a bench of liberal jurists. It's short sighted.