Senate Dems delay judicial confirmations until after election

By:  Phaedra Haywood

New Mexico’s Democratic U.S. senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, have decided to delay the process of filling two U.S. District Court vacancies in the state until after the presidential election in November.

The lawmakers said Friday they had decided to exercise their authority to pause confirmation hearings for the two judgeships after President Donald Trump made remarks in a Sept. 9 speech they felt politicized judicial appointments.

“We have proceeded in good faith to get the District Court vacancies filled. Unfortunately, just weeks before the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the President insisted on politicizing the judicial appointment process in his remarks at a thinly-veiled campaign event at the White House,” Udall and Heinrich said in a joint statement issued Friday.

“We will be pausing the process given the close proximity to the election, and will continue to work expeditiously to fill these vacancies once the American people have spoken.”

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico has seven positions, including the two vacancies.

Heinrich and Udall recommended candidates for those judgeships to the White House earlier this year.

Trump in June nominated two candidates for the positions — Fred J. Federici III, who is the first assistant U.S. attorney in New Mexico, and Brenda M. Saiz, a director at the Albuquerque law firm Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin, & Robb.

Their confirmations hearings, beginning with the Senate Judiciary Committee, were in the process of being scheduled when Heinrich and Udall halted the confirmations.

They decided to exercise their right to hold off on submitting “blue slips” acknowledging they had been consulted on the nominations.

Federici and Saiz both declined to comment Friday.

A spokesman for Heinrich’s office said if the hearings are not scheduled before the end of the calendar year, the process will start again in 2021.