The question is this: Why REALLY is U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton standing in the way of a nominee to the federal court of claims (a place where Lockheed just objected to losing a big defense contract bid that would have put people to work in Arkansas)?
Other Republicans support the nominees. There’s a demonstrated shortage of judges and unwillingness by retired judges to fill in. But the freshman senator’s solo opposition is blocking appointments approved by a Republican-controlled committee. Holding out until a hoped-for Republican administration in 14 months? That’s no way to run a government.
From a statement last night by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy:
In addition to the Article III nominees, there are five nominees to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims who were nominated well over a year ago. Each of these nominees was unanimously voice voted out of Committee last year and again this year. The Court of Federal Claims has been referred to as the “keeper of the nation’s conscience” and “the People’s Court” because it allows citizens with claims against the government to promptly seek justice. It is critically important that we confirm the five pending nominees to this court. However, they continue to be blocked by a single Republican Senator – the junior Senator of Arkansas.
Senator Cotton claims to have concerns that the court’s caseload is not high enough and that the court should simply depend on senior judges coming out of retirement to hear cases. A recent letter to the Committee from the Chief Judge of the Court of Federal Claims, however, indicates that only one of the nine senior judges is willing to be recalled for full-time duty, and the other three would only agree to be recalled on a limited basis.
Furthermore, the court’s overall caseload has increased by nine percent over the last year. No member of the Judiciary Committee raised caseload concerns when these nominees were unanimously approved by voice vote last year or again this year. There is no good reason for Senator Cotton to deprive Americans across the country of a fully-functioning Court of Federal Claims by blocking the five highly-qualified nominees from receiving an up-or-down vote. These nominees include Armando Bonilla, a Cuban American who has devoted his entire career to public service at the U.S. Department of Justice; Jeri Somers, an African American woman who spent over two decades serving as a Judge Advocate General and as a Military Judge, and several others who would contribute to our justice system. As these nominees approach the two year mark of waiting for the Senate to take up their confirmations, I urge Senator Cotton to consider these well-qualified nominees on their merits,