Filibuster Reforms Could Aid Judicial Confirmations Process

New changes in the Senate's procedures governing filibusters could trim the amount of time it takes to approve federal district judicial nominations. The set of relatively modest changes approved by the Senate shortens the time limit on debate before the Senate casts an up-or-down vote on federal district nominees, as well as some executive branch nominees.

Under the standing order approved by the Senate on January 24 by a 78-16 vote, debate on district judicial nominations following a filibuster will be limited to two hours. Previously as many as 30 hours of Senate floor debate had been permitted. The rule change, which is set to last only for the next two years, does not set set debate limits on nominees to the Supreme Court or the appellate courts.

The past four years have seen an increase in the amount of time that federal district judicial nominees waited to receive a Senate floor vote. On average, a district court nominee waited 139 days, from the time of hearing to a floor vote, compared to 54 days during the Bush administration, or 30 days during the Clinton Administration.