Richard Burr blue slip watch Day 293: Is NC Senator really throwing in with the secessionists?

Richard Burr 2Today marks Day #293 of Senator Richard Burr’s silent, one-man filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for the federal bench in North Carolina’s Eastern District, federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker. Now, today, there is a new and fascinating explanation from one of the nation’s leading judiciary watchers as to what’s really up with Burr’s blockade and those of his fellow conservative senators: secession.

As Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic explains in “How to secede from the union one judicial vacancy at a time,” it really boils down to a matter of extreme, cynical, hardball politics:

“Secession can come in many forms—just ask anyone in Texas who cares to discuss the issue with you. One particularly effective strain currently wending its way through America has been largely ignored by reporters, political analysts, and legal scholars, even though it’s a bipartisan problem within the federal government itself that undermines the rule of law and hinders the lives of millions of citizens.

Call it secession by attrition. Some Republican senators and a few Democrats as well are starving the federal courts of the trial judges they need to serve the basic legal needs of the litigants who come to court each year seeking redress of their grievances. One federal-trial seat in Texas has been vacant for 1,951 days, to give just one example. The absence of these judges, in one district after another around the country, has created a continuing vacuum of federal authority that is a kind of secession, because federal law without judges to impose it in a timely way is no federal law at all.

The absence of these judges means that cases of all types cannot be resolved in a timely fashion. It means a form of lawlessness. A recent study from the Center for American Progress identified a backlog of more than 12,000 federal cases exists in Texas alone because the two current senators there, both conservative Republicans and ardent foes of the Obama Administration’s legal views, have slow-walked trial judge nominations.”

After walking us through some of the amazing numbers surrounding the issue, Cohen concludes this way:

The reason this important story isn’t covered well on television is because there are no dramatic images attached to it. The reason the White House doesn’t highlight the problem more often is because it still needs to work with these intransigent senators on future nominations. But I can think of few functions more basic to the legislative and executive branches than ensuring that the judicial branch has enough judges to meet the needs of the people. This Senate today is failing that elemental task. It’s secession from within. And it’s working.

Read Cohen’s entire article by clicking here.


  1. Gene Hoglan

    April 8, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Burr is obviously a hypocrite, but it should be noted when Democrats regained the Senate in the 110th Congress they halted most of Bush’s federal appointees as well, which has allowed Obama to reshape the federal judiciary, and why he’s now outpaced Bush on the number of appointments.

    The 4th Circuit in particular will be radically different for decades to come as a result, which is undoubtedly a good thing due to its particular jurisdiction, but it was only made possible through the same strategy currently employed by Burr and fellow Republicans.

  2. Rob Schofield

    April 9, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Actually, Gene, the numbers are not even close. The current Senate has blocked more Obama appointees by far that any other Prez has had blocked in history.

  3. M. Watt

    April 9, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Richard Burr is the ONLY politician who has ever been rude when answering a costituent’s request for a REAL answer to a question rather than just sending a form letter. The request was not rude, but he was absolutely nasty. Nothing this man has to say will ever matter to me. Anyone who votes for him has not tried to engage him in conversation. I hope I am ever in a room with him because I have something’s to say to him publicly. He was just that arrogant and rude…again, I am a costituent.

  4. Gene Hoglan

    April 9, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Rob, I’m not commenting on numbers, merely the strategy. Obama’s had more nominees blocked but he’s also nominated more people than Bush had at this point in his presidency. Likewise he’s also gotten through more appointees, even though it’s a smaller nomination:appointed ratio than Bush.

  5. LayintheSmakDown

    April 9, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    I am telling you, that blue slip is in file 13. Turning blue holding your breath waiting on it is obviously not working.

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