Monday, November 18, 2013

Republicans Block Another Obama Nominee for Key Judgeship

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Monday denied President Obama his third nominee in recent weeks to the nation’s most powerful and prestigious appeals court and insisted they would not back down, inflaming a bitter debate over a president’s right to shape the judiciary.

By a vote of 53 to 38, the Senate failed to break a filibuster of a federal judge, Robert L. Wilkins, who was nominated to fill one of three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, falling short of the 60 votes needed.

Unlike previous fights over judicial nominees, this one is not driven by ideology or divisive social issues like abortion. Republicans have raised few objections to any of the candidates’ qualifications or political leanings.

Rather, Republicans are trying to prevent Mr. Obama from filling any slots on the court, fearing that he will alter its conservative tilt.

Democrats accused Republicans of exercising a nakedly political double standard for confirming presidential nominees.

“Appointing judges to fill vacant judicial seats is not court-packing,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader. “It’s a president’s right as well as his duty.”

Republicans have argued that the court does not have the caseload to merit filling the vacancies, and they have proposed legislation to shrink it by three seats. But that legislation has no chance of becoming law in a Democratic-controlled Senate, so instead Republicans have vowed to block any nominees for that court.
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