WASHINGTON – Philadelphia-based Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo will have a Senate committee hearing Wednesday on his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee could be a key step in advancing Restrepo's nomination, which liberal groups and other advocates say has been slowed by political gamesmanship, a charge Republicans have forcefully denied.
Sens. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) have both applauded Restrepo's proposed promotion from a District Court seat in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to the Third Circuit, based in Philadelphia. Both plan to speak on Restrepo's behalf at the hearing.
Liberal groups, though, have accused Toomey of publicly supporting Restrepo while quietly stalling President Obama's pick by taking months to submit his "blue slip" – a signed paper required from a nominee's home state senators before a committee hearing will be held. Toomey said he supports the nomination and turned in his blue slip in mid-May, once the Judiciary Committee completed its background check on Restrepo.
Obama nominated Restrepo Nov. 12.
Toomey has boasted of his cooperative relationship with Casey, saying the two have worked together to advance judicial nominees in Pennsylvania. His allies have accused critics of using a routine vetting to stir up trouble for a senator whom Democrats hope to unseat in the 2016 election. Toomey has said that even if he turned in his slip earlier the process would not have gone faster, because the committee was still doing its background check.
The fight is one skirmish in a long-running dispute in which Democrats accuse Republicans of stalling Obama nominees in order to leave vacancies that a new (potentially Republican) president can fill. Republicans say they have moved as fast or faster than Democrats did under President George W. Bush.
Casey submitted his "blue slip" for Restrepo the month he was nominated.
If advanced by the Judiciary Committee, Restrepo's nomination would then require approval by the full Senate. He has been nominated to fill a judicial emergency, a designation based on the size of the caseload when there is a vacancy.