Senate Republicans voted to hold up a key federal appeals court nominee Thursday, daring Senate Democrats to invoke what is known as the nuclear option and change the Senate rules with a simple majority vote. Patricia Millett, a corporate lawyer who is among the most prominent and widely respected members of the Supreme Court bar, would have filled one of three seats on the second most powerful American court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Senate Republicans have cited misleading statistics to claim that judges are no longer needed to fill the three vacant seats, belying the reality that filibustering Obama’s nominees would maintain the conservative stronghold over the court that has blocked environmental regulations and issued a radical ruling that could undercut all federal labor regulation. In fact, the first nominee brought up by Reid, Patty Millett, has a moderate record of representing corporations. And Republicans have cited little particular opposition to her background or credentials.
Last year, Democrats almost invoked the nuclear option before Republicans averted the explosion by agreeing to confirm seven key nominees they had previously blocked. But after Republicans revived their obstructionism and pledged to block all three of Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit, Democrats are once again warning that they will invoke the procedural maneuver. Thursday’s motion attempted to force a vote on the first of these three nominees, Millett. But with the Senate vote 55-38 against cloture and in favor of perpetuating obstruction, Republicans are signaling to Democrats: Game on.
Advocacy groups are asking constituents to write their senators calling for up-or-down votes on the D.C. Circuit nominees.