Senate ends debate on DC Circuit nominee Wilkins

The Senate voted 55-38 Thursday to end debate on the nomination of Robert Wilkins to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

That vote came at the height of Republican frustrations. Earlier Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blocked Republicans from offering amendments to a bill that would extend unemployment insurance benefits.

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Republicans have complained about the lack on an amendment process in addition to the recent filibuster rule change.

In November, Democrats unilaterally changed the Senate rules to advance some executive branch and judicial nominations with a simple-majority vote, bypassing the need for 60 votes to break a minority filibuster. Republicans said that move forever changes the Senate for the worse.

Since the rule change, Democrats have been able to fill the vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit Court, the second most influential court in the United States. 

Republicans had blocked several of President Obama’s nominees to the court, saying the seats were no longer needed because of the light caseload.

With cloture invoked on Wilkins' nomination, the Senate will debate the issue for up to 30 hours before proceeding to a final vote. But Reid announced that the soonest the final vote would happen is Monday so that senators can leave town for the weekend.

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voted with Democrats Thursday to end debate on Wilkins' nomination.

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