The Senate on Wednesday confirmed John “Jack” McConnell to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, voting along party lines, 50-44.
McConnell’s confirmation was made possible when 11 Republicans earlier joined the Democrats in a 63-33 vote to invoke cloture. Those votes should be seen as a statement on the confirmation process, that is, trying to dial back the partisan conflict that afflicts consideration of judicial nominees.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who voted for cloture but against confirmation, made the case this way:
[The] Senate is a body of precedent. One important precedent is that never in Senate history has a President’s district court nomination reported by the Judiciary Committee been defeated because of a filibuster, that is, because of a cloture vote. Once a nominee for federal district judge has gotten to the floor, the majority of senators have made the decision in an up-or-down vote.
Therefore, I will vote today for cloture in order to allow an up-or-down vote on the President’s nomination of John McConnell. Then, I will vote “no” on confirmation because I believe he is a flawed nominee.
Flawed is a gentle description. McConnell is probably the worst judicial nominee that President Obama has put forward.