Obama challenges Senate with judicial picks
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had earlier promised not to use the nuclear option, which would allow the rules to be changed on a majority vote rather than the usual two-thirds that rules changes are supposed to require. Republicans said they fear Mr. Reid is about to recant.
The Nevada Democrat was coy when asked about his intentions Tuesday.
“I have given numerous statements on my position about nominations and legislation,” he said. “The ball is in their court. I’m not going to be talking about it anymore.”
Mr. Reid argues that as part of the deal he struck earlier this year to avoid eliminating the filibuster, Republicans agreed to avoid obstructing all but the most egregious of the president’s picks. He said the GOP hasn’t lived up to that part of the bargain.
As of the end of May, the Senate had confirmed 23 percent of Mr. Obama’s 181 nominees to top civilian posts this year. At the same point in 2005 the Senate had confirmed 29 percent of President George W. Bush’s nominees, and had approved a stunning 41 percent of President Clinton’s in 1997.
The most immediate test could come on the three new D.C. Circuit nominees: Patricia Ann Millett, who has served in administrations of both parties; Cornelia Pillard, who has served as deputy assistant attorney general and former assistant to the solicitor general; and Judge Robert L. Wilkins, who was confirmed unanimously for the D.C. District Court in 2010.
Republicans argue the nominees are partly in retaliation for the court’s decision overturning Mr. Obama’s NLRB picks. They said the D.C. court has such a low caseload that it doesn’t need the 11 judges it is allotted.
House and Senate Republicans have written legislation to cut the court down to the eight judges it currently has.
“President Obama knows these facts, so his nominations today to the D.C. Circuit are an obvious effort to pack a court that has frustrated his liberal, big-government ambitions,” said Rep. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who introduced his bill Tuesday.
Mr. Obama, though, said the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is led by Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., recommended in April that the D.C. Circuit keep its full complement of 11 judgeships.
“We’re not adding seats here,” he said. “We’re trying to fill seats that are already existing.”
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