Halligan's failed nomination(s) joins the pile of blocked or stalled nominations that come at a very problematic time, where judicial vacancies have become an increasing problem throughout the country. It also gives us a great example of different Senate procedures that come into play that we've been discussing in class. In a slightly more dated article in The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin highlights some Senate mechanisms that are pivotal in cases of delayed or blocked judicial nominations, most often done by the minority party:
- The Filibuster and Cloture: Unlike the old-fashioned filibuster Senator Rand Paul used during John Brennan's confirmation vote, the filibuster that killed Halligan, along with many other judicial nominations, was the threat of a filibuster by Senate Republicans. Despite obtaining a majority of votes for consideration, Halligan failed to achieve the 60 votes necessary to enact cloture, with 41 Senate Republicans voting against.
- Unanimous Consent: Toobin notes how because the Senate calendar operates on unanimous consent, Senate Republicans must agree to addressing judicial nominations, in which they can take their time in doing or refuse to do, stalling or preventing the nomination from coming to a vote.
- The Nuclear Option: Toobin notes how Senate Democrats were also guilty of halting and blocking President George W. Bush's judicial nominees through the same use of the filibuster. When Senate Republicans grew frustrated with the obstruction of the Democrats, they threatened to force a rules change that would limit the filibuster through sheer number of party-line votes, otherwise known as the nuclear option. In 2005, the bipartisan "Gang of 14" reached a truce that prevented the option.