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How Republican obstruction hurts us

The Senate should finally do its job and confirm Judge Felipe Restrepo.

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May 27th, 2022

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After justices appointed by Republican presidents ruled against President Obama’s actions that protect DREAMers and families from deportation, DACA+ and DAPA, we saw firsthand how big of a role the courts play in the lives of our community – and how big of a problem it is when judges get the law wrong.

Right now, we have a less discussed, but very important example of Republicans obstructing justice again, this time through blocking the confirmation of a Latino judge whose qualifications are beyond question. 

A year ago, President Obama nominated Judge L. Felipe Restrepo to fill a vacancy on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Not only would this nominee fill a judicial emergency and help address the backlog of cases piling up in our nation’s courts; Judge Restrepo’s was an historic step forward for our community. He would be only the second Latino ever to sit on that court, and the first Latino from his home state, Pennsylvania.

Perhaps even more impressive, the nomination was applauded across the aisle. Both of Pennsylvania’s Senators, Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Pat Toomey, a Republican, praised the nomination and offered their enthusiastic support.

If it seemed too good to be true, maybe that’s because it was.

That’s not Judge Restrepo’s fault. Throughout the process that has taken a full year at this point, no one has questioned his experience, his integrity or his intellect. Newspapers across Pennsylvania and beyond have weighed in to support his nomination.

But the bipartisan support that Judge Toomey was promised never appeared.

To start, Senator Toomey, who went out of his way to endorse Judge Restrepo when he was nominated, managed to take six months simply to return the paperwork to the Judiciary Committee to allow the nominee a hearing. After that, Republican delays aimed indiscriminately at all of President Obama’s nominee’s prevented Judge Restrepo from actually being approved by the committee — unanimously — for another two months.

Now, four months later, a year after Judge Restrepo was nominated to fill a seat designated a judicial emergency, we’ve seen…nothing.

There’s been no movement towards allowing an historic nominee the yes or no vote on the Senate floor that he obviously deserves. And we’ve heard nothing from Senator Toomey, Judge Restrepo’s supposed supporter, to call on his fellow Republicans who control the Senate to move quickly to act on this nomination.

It would be easy to write this off as just another bit of partisan infighting in Washington, but I think it’s something more. Senator Toomey was proud to stand in public with a brilliant Latino nominee when he was nominated. But when that nominee actually needed some help, Senator Toomey was nowhere to be found.

What better example could we find of Republicans who are eager to get credit for supporting our community when the cameras are rolling, but who have done nothing to actually help Latinos when it comes to taking real action?

The Senate should finally do its job and confirm Judge Restrepo. But Latinos shouldn't forget that even in situations where Republicans talk a good game when it comes to supporting our community, that’s a far cry from actually doing it.

Civil rights leader Dolores Huerta is co-founder of United Farm Workers, President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and board member of People For the American Way.

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