WASHINGTON – Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Wednesday proposed a way forward out of the impasse created by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) by her unilateral breach of a successful agreement on judicial nominations.
Filling vacancies for federal judges in a particular state is the prerogative of the U.S. senators of that state. In Wisconsin, that prerogative lies with Senator Johnson and Senator Baldwin.
In April 2013, senators Johnson and Baldwin signed a compact that established bipartisan governance for a judicial commission to carry out a formal process for identifying potential nominees. This commission has been extremely successful, filling a judicial emergency in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin and a vacant seat in the Eastern District.
To ensure that the senators would nominate qualified judges rather than candidates who were on either extreme, the senators each selected three commissioners and required that any candidate recommended to the senators have the support of at least five commissioners. Of the 13 candidates who applied for the Seventh Circuit vacancy, the commission selected eight to interview, but only two received the support of five commissioners.
At the beginning of the Seventh Circuit selection process, Senator Johnson suggested lowering the number of candidates required for submission to the senators because the applicant pool would be smaller. Senator Baldwin refused that offer and declined the flexibility. When only two candidates received the requisite five votes, Senator Johnson agreed to allow those two to be submitted to the senators for review. Once again, Senator Baldwin refused to be flexible and declined this reasonable offer. Instead, she unilaterally breached the terms of the compact and submitted to the White House every candidate who received an interview from the commission. Unfortunately, some of those applicants received little or no support from the commissioners of either senator.
Wednesday, in spite of Senator Baldwin's highly partisan breach of the compact and her violation of the confidentiality of the process, Senator Johnson informed the White House that he is still willing to consider and continue to fully vet the two applicants who received five votes from the bipartisan commission. In order to protect the reputations of the other candidates, which Senator Baldwin has put at risk by her violation of confidentiality, he does not intend to release the name of any candidate unless that person is actually nominated.
Senator Johnson made the following statement:
“It is unfortunate that Senator Baldwin chose partisanship and politics over what is in the best interest of the people of Wisconsin. However, I remain committed to the process that has been highly successful and I agree that, even with a decreasing caseload, it is time to fill the Seventh Circuit seat. I have therefore informed the White House that I will continue vetting and will consider supporting either of the two candidates who received bipartisan support from our judicial commission. I encourage the White House and Senator Baldwin to take this recommendation seriously and to refrain from further obstruction of this process.”