Senate Republicans have been criticized for delaying the confirmation process of a Latino judicial nominee.

Luis Felipe Restrepo is currently a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since June 2013 and was nominated by President Barack Obama to fill a "judicial emergency vacancy" seat in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit -- which includes parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware -- on Nov. 12, 2014. Months since his nomination, Restrepo's future remains unclear despite receiving bipartisan support from Pennsylvania's U.S. senators.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, held a judicial nominations hearing for May 6, but Restrepo was not on the hearing's agenda. National organizations and Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, have criticized Grassley and Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Penn., for obstructing Restrepo's nomination process despite the latter previously voicing support for the judge.

"There is no reason that [Restrepo's] held up for six months other than the Republicans just simply want to do everything they can to create problems for President Obama," said Reid during a Senate floor speech on May 6. "Pennsylvanians are left wondering why this qualified judicial candidate is not moving forward."

"It appears that Republicans are heeding calls from the far right to retaliate against the president over immigration by blocking circuit judges," continued Reid. "Republicans couldn't defund the Department of Homeland Security. They couldn't block Loretta Lynch's confirmation. So now they want to block the president's appeals court judges. Our courts should be above political gamesmanship. Qualified judicial nominees like Mr. Restrepo deserve their vote in the Senate."

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Toomey has refuted claims he's obstructing Restrepo's nomination process. Toomey said the Judiciary Committee is conducting a review of Restrepo's history and will not host a confirmation hearing the review is completed. A spokesperson for Grassley's office also said a background check on Restrepo is underway. A full background review on Restrepo was also conducted in 2013 when he was nominated to serve the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

"I am supportive of Judge Restrepo, as I have said repeatedly, and I'm also confident that he will be confirmed, certainly this year, hopefully sooner rather than later," said Toomey, via The Inquirer. "There is nothing that I could have done at this point that would have Judge Restrepo in any different circumstances."

Toomey's support included a written statement published in last November. In the statement, Toomey said he was "pleased" with Obama's nomination of Restrepo and noted the federal judge's accomplishments.

"As both a federal magistrate and district judge, Judge Restrepo has served the people of Pennsylvania honorably and with distinction," Toomey stated. "He also is dedicated to his community by giving his free time to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Sen. [Bob] Casey and I recommended Judge Restrepo to the White House for a seat on the federal district court, and I believe that he will also make a superb addition to the Third Circuit based in Philadelphia."

"[Toomey] supports the nominee, but his actions certainly don't show it," said Paul Gordon, senior legislative counsel for People for the American Way (PFAW).

Despite the support, it has been six months since Obama nominated Restrepo, and the Judiciary Committee has yet to scheduled a hearing with him. Gordon told Latin Post, "The idea it's taking more than six months [for a background check] is crazy."

According to Gordon, the Republican Party took everything they had to keep vacancies open and slow-walked every nomination -- despite many nominees receiving bipartisan support -- since Obama began his presidency.

The Third Circuit Court's seat has been vacant since July 2013. Fellow Third Circuit Court Judge Marjorie Rendell announced she will take senior status this summer, which would result in two vacancies if Restrepo is not nominated in time. 

Judge Restrepo would be the second Latino judge ever to serve on the Third Circuit, and the first one from Pennsylvania. Throughout the U.S. there have been 19 Latinos serving on the Circuit Courts.

As Latin Post reported, Restrepo was born in Colombia and received his B.A. University of Pennsylvania in 1981 and later become the Defender Association of Philadelphia's assistant defender from 1987 to 1990.

In 2006, Restrepo would later receive the call to serve as a federal magistrate judge. During his time as a federal magistrate judge, he was involved in Eastern District of Pennsylvania's reentry program to reintegrate individuals released from federal custody in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Federal Defenders Office and U.S. Probation Office.

Restrepo has received support from the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Hispanic National Bar Association. The two aforementioned organizations have also called for a swift nomination process.


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