Pamela Ki Mai Chen
Senate Committee Vote on Lesbian Judicial Nominee Delayed

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com November 29 2012 6:19 PM ET

 

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday held over the nominations of five federal judicial nominees, including an openly lesbian Asian-American candidate, prompting a coalition of groups to continue their criticism of the repeated delays in the confirmation process.

The nominees include Pamela Ki Mai Chen, who was tapped by President Obama for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. If confirmed, she would become the first openly gay Asian American to serve on the federal bench and only the fifth openly gay person to receive one of the nearly 900 lifetime appointments.

Chen underwent her nomination hearing in September and was to receive her first scheduled vote today. Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the committee, exercised his authority to postpone the votes, pushing their consideration to the next scheduled meeting of the committee this coming Thursday.

The other nominees include three federal district court nominees and one nominee for the Court of International Trade. Three of the nominees, including Chen, would fill posts officially designated as emergency vacancies, according to People for the American way. 

Prior to the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, 16 Iowa and national groups, including PFAW, One Iowa and Lambda Legal, sent Grassley a letter urging him to end the “routine” delays of judicial nominees. The letter said that 97%, or all but five of the more than 180 Obama nominees scheduled for a committee vote, have been delayed.

“This isn’t about learning more about a nominee, and it isn’t about delaying someone you think might not be qualified to sit on our federal courts,” the groups wrote. “This is about obstruction, pure and simple.”

In response, Grassley, during his weekly telephone news conference, said the Senate has confirmed 160 nominations during Obama’s first term, compared to 120 nominations during the same time of the Bush administration. He also said the Senate was absorbed in approving two Supreme Court nominees, and he said Obama and his nominees have been slow in dealing with the committee, according to the Daily Nonpareil.

PFAW challenged his observations, saying that Grassley was referring to Bush’s second term. In his first time, Bush had more than 200 nominees confirmed, leaving fewer vacancies in his second term, according to the group.

“It’s part of an overall pattern of obstruction of every single one of President Obama’s nominees, and it happens at every part of the process,” said Paul Gordon, PFAW senior legislative counsel, in an interview with The Advocate. “The worst happens after the committee vote” when the nominees come to the senate floor, he said.

Gordon said he expected the committee would follow the pattern of a one-week delay and vote on Chen and the four other nominees in its next meeting. Then, they would join 19 other nominees advanced by the committee who still await votes on the Senate floor before the lame-duck session ends in a few weeks, he said.