U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor was one of a handful of Democrats who declined to support the so-called nuclear option, a rule change to eliminate the filibuster of judicial nominees.

The thanks he got today? A Republican refused to grant him unanimous consent to win approval of the nominations of two non-controvesial judicial appointees — Judge Jay Moody of Little Rock and Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville.

Glenn Sugameli, who heads the Judging the Environment judicial nominations project, sent me the exchange from the Senate floor. When Pryor asked for unanimous consent early this afternoon, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican, objected:

GRASSLEY:  “The bottom line is that under the precedent 52 Democrats sought to establish, the Majority Leader now can bring up at any time these nominations for a vote on the floor whenever he decides to do it. If he did, the nominees would be confirmed within no more than two hours of debate. So, the minority simply has no ability to stop anyone from getting a vote. There is no filibuster of any nominees anymore. That was the whole point of what the majority chose to do in November. So, madam president, I object to this unanimous consent request.”

PRYOR: “There is no reason why these two judges should be held over. They should have been done at the end of last year. I asked my colleagues to help me do that. I was told ‘No.’ We need to get these judges done now so that we don’t create this problem in Arkansas. Both these judges are very well qualified. They have all the credentials that the American bar association looks at.”

Why is Grassley punishing Arkansas, whose senators didn’t support the rule change (he noted Pryor’s vote) and whose senators, Democrat and Republican, support the nominees? (Does Sen. John Boozman have no clout in his party?)

Grassley is, of course, also a hypocrite. Sugameli notes that Grassley supported a nuclear option in 2005 when the shoe was on the other foot. He said then:

Filibusters are designed so that the minority can bring about compromise on legislation. You can always change the words of a bill or the dollars involved. But you can’t compromise a Presidential nomination. It’s yes or no. So filibusters on nominations are an abuse of our function under the Constitution to advise and consent.


Pryor said Moody, particularly was well down the list for consideration otherwise and that it was uncertain when action would occur, most likely not before filing opens Feb. 24 for Moody’s seat on the state bench. He said he expected Moody would be confirmed, 

And I wish I could tell Judge Moody, look, don’t worry about it. You’re going to be confirmed when we get back. But the way things have worked around here recently, I can’t give him that guarantee.

Pryor noted that if Moody files for office to protect his job he can’t take his name off the ballot. So an election would occur in May that might soon require a special election gubernatorial appointment should Moody be confirmed for the federal slot.

Pryor emphasized that the court in Arkansas was two judges short.