Senate GOP to block third court nominee

Senate Republicans on Monday are expected to block President Obama’s third nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The GOP argues confirming Robert Leon Wilkins to the court would tilt its balance. Republicans also argue the court doesn't need 11 seats because the eight judges currently serving have low caseloads. 

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It's the same argument Republicans have made in blocking two other nominees to the court, which has three vacancies. They say the president is trying to “pack” the court with liberals that will “rubber-stamp” his agenda.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday the Republican argument is “absurd on its face.”

The Senate vote is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday. Sixty votes are needed to overcome the filibuster.

Republicans say two of the court's seats should be moved to other appellate courts that have higher caseloads and judicial emergencies. Democrats used a similar argument to block former President George W. Bush's nominees to the court.

Senate Democrats have hinted that the GOP strategy could lead them to change the Senate's rules so that a simple-majority vote could be used to confirm the nominees. Changing the Senate's rules in this way is known as the “nuclear option.”

Earlier this year, Republicans blocked the nominations of Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Millett. Caitlin Halligan withdrew her nomination because of GOP threats to block her confirmation.

“No senator has questioned the character or ethics of the three woman Senate Republicans have already rejected for the D.C. Circuit. ... Nor has any senator questioned the character or ethics of Judge Wilkins,” Reid said. “So I am frustrated that Republicans would once again filibuster such a highly qualified nominee.”  

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