This is what happens when you're a judicial nominee during this session of Congress, widely considered one of the most partisan ever: Rumors about your impending confirmation vote don't come true. Co-workers and friends keep asking why the holdup. You have no good answers.
You remind yourself that, hey, your existing job isn't too bad after all. You start watching C-SPAN. A lot. You wonder when to sell your home, and where to enroll your children in school. Despair sets in.
Mostly, you wait.
"It's just really a little nerve-wracking, waiting and hoping and wishing your name would come up," said U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain in Michigan, who was nominated in November 2011 and who waited more than four months between his approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee and a confirmation vote by the full Senate on August 2. "You are at the mercy of the Senate."
During the past two years, the Senate's mercy has hardly been tender. Nomination-related partisanship for the first time reached even noncontroversial district court nominees. Especially after January, when Republicans began to retaliate against judicial nominees in response to recess appointments that President Obama made to two federal agencies.
Stephanie Rose, then U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, won approval from the Judiciary Committee in April. Four months later, she was still waiting to hear whether the full Senate would confirm her for the Southern District of Iowa. The new job would mean moving to Des Moines, more than 100 miles away. The school year approached, but Rose and her husband had no idea where to enroll their two children, 10 and 13. They made repairs to their home and studied the housing market, but had no idea whether to put it up for sale.
"Do you sell a house in today's market if you don't have the certainty there's going to be a job for you? There are all those family issues that make the wait more difficult," Rose said. "To be so close to gaining that, and not know if it's going to happen, is hard."
'SCARY NEW TERMS'
Rose learned what she called "scary new terms" like cloture, whereby Democrats would try to force a confirmation vote and sometimes fail, even with strong support from the nominee's home-state senators. "At any point, Congress could devolve into such a contentious thing that there would be no confirmations," Rose said.
There was a support group of sorts, comprising fellow nominees, Rose said. The White House kept them updated regarding any movement in Congress and who was moving to the top of the list. Still, she had no idea about when or if she should start getting ready to move.
For months, while Rose and other nominees waited, Senate Democrats pointed out that Obama's district court nominees had been forced to wait four times longer than had George W. Bush's. Republicans said they had approved a sufficient number of judges; complained about those recess appointments; or cited the impending presidential election.
Confirmations trickled out of the Senate in that fashion for most of 2012. Republicans stopped all circuit court confirmations in June and allowed only about one district court confirmation per week until they stopped those for good in September.