Senate Republicans have successfully blocked the confirmation of another of President Barack Obama’s picks for a top appeals court today, sparking outrage and calls for Senate rules changes among the chamber’s Democrats.
Obama had tabbed Georgetown law professor Cornelia T. L. Pillard to fill a spot on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, seen by many as the second-most important United States court behind the Supreme Court. Republicans, however, initiated a filibuster to prevent voting on her confirmation, and a 56-41 vote to end debate fell short of the 60 votes needed.
While some Republicans are opposed to her record on issues like abortion, many said the issue wasn’t with her, but with the position itself. Two other Obama nominees for the court, Caitlin Halligan and Patricia Millett, have also been filibustered, with Republicans saying they simply don’t need any more judges on that court.
Their argument in opposition to the nominees has been that the court’s caseload is lower than other federal appeals courts. Many Republicans want Obama to eliminate those three seats, reallocating two of them to other circuit courts.
Democrats pointed out that the blocked nominees were all women, and have threatened to unleash the so-called “nuclear option.” That would rewrite Senate rules to make it easier to end debate on judicial nominees, something that the Senate has managed to avoid on several occasions in recent years.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was outspoken in his criticism of Democratic reaction to the filibuster and calls for rules changes.
“Go ahead,” he said. “There are a lot more Scalias and Thomases that we’d love to put on the bench.”
Another vote on another Obama nominee for the same court that is slated for next week should shine more light on how both parties will handle judicial nominees moving forward.
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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