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The Empty Bench

- February 10, 2011

Jon Bernstein has “a nice op-ed”:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/opinion/09Bernstein.html?_r=1&ref=opinion in the New York Times today. Here’s the nut graf:

bq. The vacancy crisis on the federal bench is not a partisan issue. Without enough judges, cases are delayed, lives are disrupted and rights are violated. There’s no question that Republicans are at fault — but until President Obama and the Senate Democrats take aggressive steps to counter such obstructionism, they share in the blame.

Brendan Nyhan “responds”:http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2011/02/the-downside-of-obamas-focus-on-legislation.html by noting that Obama has similarly neglected the Fed.

This is a theme that both of them — among others (e.g., Matt Yglesias) — have been discussing for a while. And they may be on to something. But here’s my question. Obama is a smart guy. His people are smart people. No doubt they are well aware of the benefits of stocking the courts with left-leaning judges and ditto for the Fed.

So, I’m curious. Does anyone know why they haven’t done it? Is it really just that — a la “Robert Kuttner”:http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=unequal_to_the_moment — they prioritize legislation more? Is there some evidence that they actually don’t care so much about the courts or the Fed? Is there some sort of organizational dysfunction within the White House? Is it the vetting? Or do they just not get it? What?

I’ve never seen any good reporting on this, although I easily could have missed something. Anyone is welcome to weigh in.