The Congressional Research Service is a non-partisan arm of the Congress whose purpose is to provide well-researched answers for questions raised by members of the Senate and House. This week it put out a report on another sign of increasing public dysfunction: the mounting number of vacant seats on the Federal judiciary, for both district courts and circuit-court appeals judges. They are vacant mainly because of the increasing difficulty of getting nominations approved by (you guessed it) ... the U.S. Senate.
Refreshingly, this is not strictly a partisan issue! Senate showdowns over judicial nominees have ramped up under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. This chart shows the percentage of nominees who were finally approved by "roll call" vote in the Senate. The significance here is that back in the Reagan and first George Bush administrations, virtually all nominations were approved by voice vote -- ie, in an uncontested, pro-forma way.
In this chart we see that the current Republican Senate minority, under Obama, has done essentially what the Democratic Senate minority began doing under Bush: forcing nearly all nominations to a contested vote.
But something has changed under Obama, according to the report. He is the only president in the past few decades (most figures go back to Reagan) to have more seats vacant as he began his re-election year than he inherited when he took office.