Has one logjam in Washington been broken?

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This is excerpted from a posting by political scientist Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post's PostPartisan blog.

First the good news: The Senate on Monday confirmed, finally, Judge Robert Bacharach to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit by a vote of 93-0. It was unanimous, so where was the obstruction, you ask?

A cloture vote in July failed 56 to 34, with three Republicans voting "present" and seven not voting. (Sixty votes are needed to cut off debate.) Of the Republicans currently in the Senate, only Susan Collins of Maine voted yes. The rest were effectively against cloture then but voted for the nomination this week.

Even in July, Mr. Bacharach had been held up for far too long. He was appointed in January 2012, and the seat he is about to fill has been open since June 2010. This should not happen, especially to a nominee who faces no actual opposition.

There is a case to be made for requiring a supermajority to approve lifetime judicial appointments to which a minority objects strongly. But when minority lawmakers abuse the process by filibustering judges they don't even oppose, they are asking for the elimination of the rules that give Senate minorities a chance to block some nominations. As Steve Benen wrote on the Maddow Blog: "It's not just the Senate that failed miserably in this confirmation process; it's the GOP minority that took the extraordinary step of filibustering a judge they wanted to confirm."

Mr. Bacharach is the second appeals court nominee to be confirmed in the current Congress. Reforms the Senate enacted last month were intended to help get through nominations, especially those that are not controversial.

It remains to be seen whether the Bacharach confirmation is part of a new trend that will see senators -- Republicans in particular -- acting more responsibly or whether further reform will be needed.



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