In an unfairness that he has denounced in others, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is blocking the confirmation process for a new federal judge in the Baton Rouge-based Middle District court.
Why? Attorney Shelly D. Dick was nominated to the bench on the recommendation of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat.
With Republicans hoping to win the White House next fall, Vitter hopes that he’ll be able to fill the vacancy of the late Judge Ralph Tyson with a deserving Republican next year.
It’s blatant politics of exactly the kind that Vitter denounced unsparingly in 2007. Then, Landrieu — on the basis of vague objections — delayed the approval of a qualified GOP nominee for the Middle District. However, that was the only time that Landrieu used senatorial privilege to block a Louisiana nominee in the eight years of the administration of President George W. Bush.
To add to the hypocrisy of Vitter’s latest, he absurdly suggests that he is pure of heart when it comes to nominees by President Barack Obama.
“By any measure, I’ve bent over backwards to cooperate regarding President Obama’s Louisiana nominees, which has resulted in all 10 before this being confirmed in record time,” Vitter stated. “Now that it’s a few months before a presidential election, however, I’m going to let the people speak before supporting any others.”
This should provoke guffaws from anyone familiar with Vitter’s obstructionism, as blatantly partisan and removed from “cooperation” as it is possible to be.
Vitter stalled two appointments to the Federal Reserve Board before they were ultimately pushed through. He’s showered administration nominees with objections, including a case in which the Senate Ethics Committee rebuked him for his abuse of the privileges.
In 2010, Vitter held up two Louisiana nominations — one for then-nominated federal Judge Brian Jackson of Baton Rouge and a U.S. marshal candidate in New Orleans — in an effort to ensure that the U.S. attorney he supports in the Eastern District, Jim Letten, remained. Vitter relented once Letten was reappointed with support from Landrieu.
In that case, Vitter may have outmaneuvered himself. It is quite likely that Letten, a high-profile prosecutor of politicians, would have been reappointed anyway.
All this underscores the outdated nature of the Senate’s outdated rules and privileges.
At one time, senators were expected to obey unwritten rules of courtesy, among them a willingness to confirm qualified nominees of whatever party.
We now live in an era of David Vitters — politicians who believe themselves to be in permanent warfare against the other party, no holds barred, for which the public interest is irrelevant.
The result is a political stall on an attorney who deserves a Senate hearing and then an up-or-down vote on her nomination.