The confirmation process for Texas federal judges just became really interesting. Shortly after Vice President Joe Biden swore in Ted Cruz yesterday (and scared Cruz’s baby daughter, about 59 seconds into this video clip), Cruz landed a plum assignment on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The freshman senator’s voicemail box at the U.S. Capitol was full this morning. But judging by his recent Facebook post, it’s pretty clear which of his committee assignments is his favorite:
“Looking forward to serving with my Senate colleagues on Judiciary, Commerce, Armed Services, Rules, & Aging Committees,” Cruz writes.
It is rare for a state to seat two senators on the Judiciary Committee, which has the important job of deciding whether to confirm the president’s federal judicial nominees.
Texas certainly has not two members on that committee in recent memory. Cruz’s fellow Republican committee member U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has taken on a prominent role on the committee in recent years. He’s been heavily involved in managing the candidates selected for White House approval, even calling press conferences when he disagrees with Texas Democratic congressional caucus over individual judicial candidates.
Cruz and Cornyn undoubtedly will play key roles in reviewing candidates for the many federal judicial vacancies in Texas: currently five district court benches and two seats on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
President Barack Obama has seated several district court judges in Texas and two justices on the 5th Circuit, but neither appellate jurist hales from the Lone Star State.
Despite how politically heated the judicial nomination process has become in recent years, Cornyn has never used what’s known as the blue-slip process to block any of Obama’s district court appointments in Texas.
Cruz — a Harvard Law grad, former Texas solicitor general and big firm partner — certainly will have good grasp of the legal players in Texas who may become judicial candidates. He could follow Cornyn’s lead in working with the White House to fill some big holes in the Texas federal judiciary — or not. The choice is his.
--- John Council