WASHINGTON -- Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), one of the most vulnerable senators up for re-election this year, appealed to GOP leaders Wednesday to confirm two of his judicial nominees by skipping over those of other senators who have been waiting longer.
Nobody really liked that.
Toomey, who's been getting clobbered by Democrats for his role in blocking a vote on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, urged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to hold votes for Pennsylvania federal district court nominees Marilyn Horan and Susan Baxter. They are two of 11 judicial nominees ready to be confirmed, but the Senate is barely moving because of McConnell, who is loath to allow votes on any more Obama nominees.
"How about we try a step in the right direction? How about we vote on these two judges?" Toomey said on the Senate floor. "They are the two who would fill the seats vacant the longest."
The problem with his request is that eight other district court nominees are in line ahead of his, and traditionally, the Senate confirms them in the order that they arrive from the Judiciary Committee. That means Toomey was asking to make all of those nominees -- including those from GOP states like Tennessee and Nebraska, and those that would fill judicial emergencies -- wait longer because, well, he's running for re-election and could use some good press back home.
"I think this would be progress if we could simply agree to have a vote on these two nominees," Toomey said. "Let's get off this all-or-nothing situation."
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said he supported Toomey's effort, but only if he agreed to allow votes for the other nominees, too. One of them, of course, was a Whitehouse nominee. But McConnell objected to Whitehouse's request, so Whitehouse objected to Toomey's request. In other words, nothing came of any of it.
The timing of Toomey's stand seemed a bit orchestrated. He's under tremendous pressure to look bipartisan and to distance himself from the GOP blockade against Obama's Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland. He's in a dead heat with his Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty, and a Wednesday poll showed that 58 percent of Pennsylvania voters want the Senate to give Garland a vote.
McConnell signaled later that, whenever he does decide to give a judicial nominee a vote, he'll do it in order -- even at the expense of a vulnerable member like Toomey. The GOP leader's office announced Wednesday evening that he's ready to hold a vote on a judicial nominee: Maryland's Paula Xinis, who is first in line.