The debate in Washington over who’s to blame for the slow pace in filling judicial vacancies (or whether the pace is even slow to begin with) reflects an assumption that is shared by both sides: that the Senate should generally defer to the President in the confirmation process.
But that represents a flawed understanding of the Constitution’s Appointments Clause and the separation-of-powers doctrine on which it is based. Senatorial deference, far from facilitating the proper working of the confirmation process, risks undermining the judiciary’s independence as a coequal branch of government by making the Senate less likely to check the President in determining the composition of the federal bench.
What is healthy, and constitutionally legitimate, is competition between the Senate and the President in the confirmation process. Competition makes it more likely that the judges and justices who are ultimately confirmed will discharge their duties in a manner consistent with the Framers’ designs.Read More