In what appears to be deliberate, partisan foot-dragging, the U.S. Senate has delayed confirmation action on 28 federal district judges nominated to the bench by President Reagan. Some of the names were sent to the Senate as long as a year ago.
This kind of political game-playing with the serious business of appointing judges should have no place in Congress even though it is not unknown. Under the Constitution, a president nominates and the Senate confirms federal judges. The Senate can withhold confirmation for good cause, but simply to delay action in the hope that a new president will wipe out all the nominations, makes a mockery of what is supposed to be a dignified and statesman-like process.The Senate Judiciary Committee currently is taking an average of 123 days to act on a presidential judicial nomination. That is three times longer than the amount of time it has taken any other Judiciary Committee in memory, whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats and no matter what party occupied the White House.
This kind of inaction threatens to turn the confirmation of federal district judges into the same kind of political circus that lately has come to surround the nomination of Supreme Court justices.
Part of the delay comes from a belief that President Reagan has appointed an unprecedented number of judges in his two terms. While Reagan has, indeed, named more judges - about 400 - it's because none of his immediate predecessors served a full two terms. In his three years, Kennedy appointed 31.9 percent of all federal judges, a faster pace than most others. Johnson appointed 38.8 percent in five years; Nixon 45.3 percent in six years; Carter 39.1 percent in four years; and Reagan 48.7 percent in just over seven years.
The administration says there is "no reasonable justification" for the Senate delays and plans to put on the pressure when the Senate resumes work Sept. 7 for its final month prior to the election recess.
The nominations should be processed with dispatch. Otherwise, another administration may some day find itself held hostage to the same kind of tactics being used now.