Senate Republicans won’t agree to speed judge nominations


WASHINGTON — Sen. Mark Pryor’s effort to fast track the confirmation of two Arkansas judicial nominees was derailed Wednesday in the Senate.

Pryor sought unanimous consent to confirm the two nominees, but Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley objected. As ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Grassley has been highly critical of Senate Democrats for limiting the minority’s right to filibuster judicial nominees.

“The bottom line is the majority leader now can bring up — at any time — these nominations for a vote on the floor. If he did, the nominees would be confirmed within no more than two hours of debate,” Grassley said. “So, I object to this unanimous consent request.”

President Obama last year nominated Pulaski County Circuit Judge James “Jay” Moody Jr. and Fayetteville attorney Timothy L. Brooks to fill federal judicial slots in Arkansas. Both were endorsed unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and now await a vote of the full Senate along with a string of other nominees.

Pryor said there was an urgent need to confirm Moody, in particular, because the filing period to be listed on the ballot for Pulaski County Circuit judge opens later this month.

Without confirmation, Moody is left to wonder if he should file for re-election. If he does, his name cannot be removed from the ballot even if is confirmed to the federal bench.

“So this is causing a lot of problem back home,” Pryor said on the Senate floor.

In an interview later Wednesday, Pryor said that Grassley was not being realistic in suggesting that with a snap of a finger Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid could call a vote.

Pryor noted that the Senate had a full schedule Wednesday and was trying to adjourn early so members could fly home ahead of a looming winter storm. They will not return to session until Monday, Feb. 24.

“What would be realistic is for the Republican side to just say ‘yes’ and approve the nominees now. There is no controversy on these nominees and that would be the best, easiest and surest way to get these done,” Pryor said.

Reid later Wednesday filed a cloture motion that will allow the Senate to consider Moody’s confirmation when they are back in session.

Moody is nominated to serve as a U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas, which includes Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Jonesboro.

Brooks is nominated to serve as a U.S. district judge for the Western District of Arkansas, which includes Fayetteville, Fort Smith and Hot Springs.