As far as I can tell, if Sens. Cornyn and Hutchison have their way, the US Attorney positions in Texas will remain vacant until after the next Republican President is elected.
A classic political stalemate pitting Texas’ Democratic congressional delegation and Obama’s administration against Texas’ pair of Republican senators is partly to blame for the slowed process here. Similar fights in other states, as well as an especially cautious presidential nominating process, have left most of the nation without freshly appointed lead federal prosecutors, who direct law enforcement priorities and approve work on the big projects.
Instead, many of the seats have the same folks there when President George W. Bush was president or, as in Texas, the jobs are filled by someone bridging the gap.
In Houston, that gap stretched to about 14 months and interim U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson last week announced he’s leaving next month for a private sector job. A second interim attorney has to be put in the Houston seat now.
“This is the slowest I’ve ever seen it. There’s an unnecessary fight between members of Congress and the Senate, and it’s very disheartening. There’s a cost to the people of South Texas,” said Tony Canales, a Democrat who is the former Houston-based U.S. attorney and who joined a panel established by the GOP senators to help pick candidates.
Despite the “it’s everybody’s fault” tone of this story, the fact is that according to the Congressional Research Office, when the President is of one party and both of a given state’s Senators are of the other party, “the primary role in recommending candidates for district court judgeships is assumed by officials in the state who are of the President’s party.” The reason for this stalemate is because Cornyn and Hutchison refuse to acknowledge this and instead insist that they get to make the decision. The fact that their ridiculously un-representative screening committee happened to come up with a good candidate (a Republican, of course; that’s the reason for their meddling) is beside the point. It’s not their decision to make. But thanks to their intransigence, and the Senate’s dysfunctional “blue slip” rule, here we are a year into Obama’s Presidency and the only way forward is to give in to their demands, since they’ll never back down. We should at least be clear about why this is.