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Senate Republicans Block Third D.C. Circuit Nominee

By Brett Snider, Esq. on November 21, 2013 2:55 PM

Strike three and you're out ... of nominees to the D.C. Circuit. After Monday's vote to end debate on Republican delay on nominee Robert Wilkins failed by seven votes, it appears that Senate Democrats have no more nominees to put before the full Senate.

The Associated Press reports that President Obama called the blocking of his third nominee to the D.C. Circuit a "completely unprecedented" obstruction, accusing Congress of failing to uphold its constitutional responsibilities.

Robert Wilkins' Nomination Blocked

After another round of filibustering, the Senate Republicans have successfully blocked Robert Wilkins from reaching a full vote on his nomination in the Senate.

This sort of delay tactic shouldn't be a surprise to anyone by now. Senate Republicans have already used it to successfully block Nina Pillard and Patricia Millett in the last month. All three nominees came to a dead halt after the Senate Democrats failed to get a cloture vote, one that requires 3/5 of Congress to agree and would essentially force the Senate to vote on the candidates.

Like the other nominees, except maybe Pillard, Wilkins enjoyed a fairly uneventful Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and had no major ideological demons to face. Wilkins was even nominated to the D.C. District bench in 2010 by a unanimous confirmation by the Senate.

But maybe the blocking didn't have to do with Wilkins' fitness as a nominee but rather the idea of nominating anyone at all.

Will Senate Republicans Allow Any New D.C. Cir. Judges?

Even before any of the three D.C. Circuit nominees passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) had made it very clear that he and his ilk in the Senate believed that no further judges were needed on the D.C. Circuit, despite three empty seats.

Writing for The Huffington Post, Staff Counsel for the Colorado Ethics Watch Peg Perl writes that the despite what Senate Republicans think, federal court vacancies are a problem. Perl writes that 10% of federal judgeships are empty seats, which means "slower justice" for all Americans.

It's been five months since the last nominee was successfully confirmed to the D.C. Circuit bench -- Sri Srinivasan -- and it appears that her unanimous confirmation may be Obama's last. While three empty seats remain.

Following Senate Democrats failed attempt to bypass filibuster on Wilkins, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) called upon colleagues to again consider changing filibuster rules, reports the AP.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Senate Democrats did just that, voting to change the filibuster rules so that a simple majority is necessary to end debate. This change may insulate future D.C. Circuit nominations from Republican filibuster, but only time will tell.

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