WASHINGTON — For months, Sen. Marco Rubio has faced growing complaints over his refusal to advance a South Florida judicial nominee — one he recommended to the White House — and the matter is now certain to languish into the new year, if not longer.
The Judiciary Committee's final meeting of the year takes place next week, and Mary Barzee Flores is not on the agenda. Rubio has not submitted a "blue slip" that would allow her to advance, though he points to the committee vetting process.
"We're not discussing particulars until Judiciary Committee finishes review," spokesman Alex Burgos said. "There's a thorough review of the nomination currently under way by the Judiciary Committee. Once that is complete and reviewed by the senator, we will discuss next steps. We're letting the current step — vetting for a lifetime job — be completed first."
Without a blue slip, Barzee Flores cannot advance.
The spot on the court has been vacant since May 2014 and is considered a judicial emergency, meaning cases are backlogged.
Barzee Flores was recommended by the widely regarded Florida Judicial Nominating Commission. Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson forwarded her name to the White House, which in February nominated Barzee Flores fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Senators are not bound to support a nominee under JNC rules, though they generally have.
Barzee Flores served on the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida in Miami from 2003 to 2011 and before that had a long stint in the federal public defender's office. She graduated from Miami Law School in 1988.
The Judicial Committee is overseen by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democrats and activists have accused him of "slow walking" President Barack Obama's nominees in case a Republican president takes over.
"U.S. Courts declared judicial emergency vacancies skyrocketed this year from 12 to 30 because of unjustifiable delays by Sen. Rubio and other home-state Republican senators," said Glenn Sugameli of Judging the Environment.
Rubio's actions have drawn complaints in Florida, including a protest outside his Orlando office in August. "The Sunshine State is in a judicial emergency," read one sign. Rubio's staff cited the committee review.
Grassley has disputed charges that he's playing politics.