Filibusters and Holds
The Republican effort to block Obama's nominees to federal judgeships is, truly, without precedent. In the past there have always been a few high-profile fights, as well as a general slowdown toward the end of most presidencies when the minority party hopes that a few months of stalling will allow them to take office and fill the vacancies themselves. It's not pretty, but not surprising either.
But this presidency is different. Republicans are holding up everyone, and they're doing it during Obama's first year. Not a single appellate judge has gotten a vote yet:
And it's not just judicial nominees. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, pointing to the difficulties of responding to the global flu pandemic, recently noted that the Senate isn't allowed to vote on a surgeon general, because Republicans refuse to let Regina Benjamin's nomination come to the floor. "We are facing a major pandemic, we have a well-qualified candidate for surgeon general, she's been through the committee process. We just need a vote in the Senate," Sebeilus said late last week. "Please give us a surgeon general."
....People for the American Way reported last week that between 1949 and 2009 — spanning 11 presidents — there were 24 nominees on which cloture was forced. In the first nine months of Obama's first year in office, there have been five, meaning Senate Republicans on track to force more cloture votes on more Obama nominees than practically every modern president combined.
That's Steve Benen, who points out accurately, "And that doesn't include the secret and not-so-secret holds." Temper tantrum politics is alive and well in the modern Republican Party.