When the president finally does nominate someone, the Senate is generally reluctant to confirm her. Obama has 15 judicial nominees waiting for Senate floor votes right now. Overall, his judicial nominees wait an average of 116 days on the Senate floor for a vote—three times longer than Bush’s average judicial nominee wait time. When the 112th Congress ended in December, the Senate had approved 175 of Obama's judges. By contrast, Bush had 206 judges approved in his first term, and President Clinton had 204.
The figure below, also by Remapping Debate, compares Bush and Obama's first terms, showing the average number of days between vacancy and nomination, and the number of days nominees were pending before the Senate.
Confirmation of a nominee to the DC circuit court, which is one step below the Supreme Court, is particularly important for Obama's second term because the court handles all disputes related to regulations and executive actions. "With legislative priorities gridlocked in Congress, the president’s best hope for advancing his agenda is through executive action, and that runs through the D.C. Circuit," Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, told the Washington Post Tuesday.
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Rep. John Carney (D-Del.), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.)
Many of the laws that Congress passed to rein in big banks in the wake of the 2007 financial meltdown have yet to go into effect, but lawmakers are already working to dismantle them. And it's not a partisan thing either.
A group of 21 House lawmakers—including eight Democrats—is pushing seven separate bills that would dramatically scale back financial reform. The proposed laws, which are scheduled to come before the House financial-services committee for consideration in mid-April, come straight on the heels of a major Senate investigation that revealed that JP Morgan Chase had lost $6 billion dollars by cooking its books and defying regulators—who themselves fell asleep on the job. Why the move to gut Wall Street reform so soon? Financial-reform advocates say Democrats might be supporting deregulation because of a well-intentioned misunderstanding of the laws, which lobbyists promise are consumer-friendly. But, reformers add, it could also have something to do with Wall Street money.
Pitch Interactive, a California-based data visualization shop, has created a beautiful, if somewhat controversial, visualization of every attack by the US and coalition forces in Pakistan since 2004. It doesn't fit on the blog, so we created a full-width page for it. You can look at it here.
Pitch Interactive, a California-based data visualization shop, has created a beautiful, if somewhat controversial, visualization of every attack by the US and coalition forces in Pakistan since 2004.
The data is legit; it comes from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, but as Emma Roller at Slate notes, the designers present it weirdly, claiming at the beginning of the interactive that fewer than 2 percent of drone deaths have been "high profile targets," and "the rest are civilians, children and alleged combatants." At the end of the visualization, you find out that a majority of the deaths fall into the "legal gray zone created by the uncertainties of war," as Brian Fung put it at National Journal.
But the "legal gray zone" itself is alarming enough—highlighting the lack of transparency surrounding the administration's drone program—as are the discrepancies in total numbers killed. It's between 2,537 and 3,581 (including 411 to 884 civilians) killed since 2004, if you want to go with the BIJ. Or it's between 1,965 and 3,295 people since 2004 (and 261 to 305 civilians), if you want to believe the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation. Or perhaps it's 2,651 since 2006 (including 153 civilians), according to Long War Journal. (The NAF and Long War Journal base estimates on press reports. BIJ also includes deaths reported to the US or Pakistani governments, military and intelligence officials, and other academic sources.)
So, here is Pitch's take on what killing people in Pakistan with flying robots has looked like over the past nine years:
In a largely symbolic vote early Saturday morning, the Senate agreed that badly behaving financial institutions should not be "too big to jail," or so large that the government is afraid to prosecute them for fear of damaging the economy.
After 1,448 days without a budget, the Senate finally passed one Saturday morning. The process entailed a 13-hour voting session, called a vote-a-rama, in which lawmakers filed over 500 amendments, and voted on 70. Amendment 696 was Sen. Jeff Merkley's (D-Ore.), which would officially warn the Department of Justice that "too big to jail" is unacceptable and recommend prosecution when a crime is committed. Most of the amendments are more political posturing than anything else, because it's pretty unlikely the Senate's budget will be merged with the radically different House budget. Still, some of the add-ons, like Merkley's, are important because they point toward legislation that might not be far off.
I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.
At a hearing on bank money laundering earlier this month, a treasury official told senators that federal prosecutors had consulted with Treasury over the potential economic consequences of prosecuting HSBC. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was not happy. "If you're caught with an ounce of cocaine, you're going to go to jail," she said. "But if you launder nearly a billion dollars for international cartels and violate sanctions you pay a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed a night."
Merkley's amendment would create a reserve fund to facilitate the criminal prosecution of financial institutions that break the law, no matter how big they are. Although the amendment will most likely not become law, it does indicate that lawmakers are fed up.
"Under our American system of justice—where Lady Justice is blindfolded—there should never be a prosecution-free zone," Merkley posted on his website after the vote. "But that is what our Department of Justice created...Too big to jail is wrong under our Constitution that promises equality under the law and we must end it."