The White House came out today in strong support of a move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to try to force Senate Republicans to vote on the president's halted judicial nominees.
"What the president is really asking - what he's demanding - is that the Senate do its job on behalf of the American people," White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler told reporters. "There are three branches of government in our constitutional system, and the executive branch and the Congress have responsibility to ensure that the third branch of government, the judiciary, can function."
"President Obama has lived up to his responsibility, and it is time for the legislative branch, for the Congress to live up to its responsibility," she said.
Earlier this week, Reid announced that he's invoking cloture to confirm numerous court nominees, a move designed to break a Republican filibuster.
"These are 22 qualified consensus nominees; the overwhelming majority of them received unanimous support from the judiciary committee. They have the support of Republican senators from their home states," Reid said on Monday. "There are judges on this list go back to November of last year. Not because we couldn't have done it. These could be confirmed in a matter of minutes. The votes should be routine."
Reid said a "judicial emergency" has been created because of the "Republican obstructionism."
"Republicans have used every delay tactic available to them to slow the confirmation process down to nearly a halt and to block nominees who are unquestionably qualified," Ruemmler said.
Republicans say this is nothing more than a political gimmick by Democrats to try to change the subject from jobs to judges, something more favorable to President Obama and the Democratic Party in an election year. They say Democrats should be focused on job creating measures and have urged Reid all week to move to the House-passed jobs bill waiting to be taken up rather than spend time right now on the nominations.
"We have a way of dealing with the judicial and other appointments in the Senate," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said today, calling it a manufactured crisis. "This president has gotten more judges in three years than President Bush got in the last four. We approved 62 last year. We've approved seven so far this year. This is a needless exercise and a waste of the Senate's time."
Democrats have fired back, saying that it takes little time to approve judges that are supported by both parties.
"They could approve these judges in five minutes," Reid fired back today, "So what do they mean, 'take it away from the jobs'? The only major jobs bill we've had is the one here on the floor right now, the Senate bill that we're dealing with - surface transportation."
The Senate is set to pass the surface transportation bill on Wednesday. What they take up next will be the next question.