Plans to delay U.S. Senate's return to work could impact federal courts in Ohio

Posted at 10:29 PM, Oct 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-03 23:49:32-04

CLEVELAND — Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is proposing a plan to delay the Senate’s return to Oct. 19. However, he wants to the judiciary committee to start on the original date of Oct. 12. That committee oversees the hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. If they approve it, the nomination then goes to the full Senate. That’s where it could run into problems.

“If there are not 51 Republican senators, Senate Democrats could try and deprive the Senate of a quorum to conduct business,” said Jonathan Adler, Professor of Law at Case Western University.

The constitution requires a majority of senators—also called “quorum”—for the full senate to take a vote. With three republican senators currently in isolation, that would leave only 50 senators on their side of the aisle.

At that point, Senate Democrats could boycott the vote. However, McConnell has another option. He could order the sergeant at arms to arrest absentee lawmakers and force them to come to the floor for a vote—though that hasn’t happened since 1988.

“I think it’s a possibility in the sense that right now we have two political parties that don’t work well together and don’t cooperate very well,” said Adler. “Even in these extreme circumstances where you would like to think the parties could work together so that the general operation of government would proceed, that’s not happening and of course you know there are strong differences about whether it’s even appropriate to consider a Supreme Court nomination right now.”

Adler said what happens with the Senate will determine the fate of federal courts here in Ohio.

“There are three judicial nominees for the state of Ohio who have been supported by both senators [Rob] Portman and [Sherrod] Brown who are scheduled for a Senate vote and so whether or not the Senate has a quorum to conduct business could also affect whether or not we see district court judges confirmed for Cleveland, Toledo and Dayton,” Adler said.