Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the nomination of Robert Bacharach to be a U.S. circuit judge for the Tenth Circuit court in Oklahoma on Monday because they said it violated an election-year practice.
The 56-34-3 vote came despite previously-stated support of Bacharach from the Oklahoma Republican Sens. Tom CoburnTom CoburnDon't be fooled: Carper and Norton don't fight for DC Coburn: Trump's tweets aren't presidential The road ahead for America’s highways MORE and James InhofeJames InhofeRepeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate GOP senator: EPA 'brainwashing our kids' A guide to the committees: Senate MORE. They chose not to vote against what their party leadership urged, instead they voted present. Sixty votes were needed to clear the proceedural hurdle.
Republicans said ahead of time that they’d block the nomination because of the Thurmond-Leahy Rule — a past Senate practice not to approve judicial nominations so close to a presidential election since a possible new president would want to make their own appointments.
“Now that there is a Democrat in the White House, they refuse to follow past practice on postponing the consideration of circuit court nominations this late in an election year so the American people can decide who they want making these important appointments,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Memo: Winners and losers from the battle over healthcare GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support MORE (R-Ky.) said on the floor. “They want to violate the custom in presidential election years that the [Congressional Research Service (CRS)] says they’ve been the biggest proponents of. The CRS does not say that the biggest proponent of the Leahy-Thurmond Rule is me … Rather, the CRS says that the most frequent proponent of the Rule, ‘is the current Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.’”
White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler criticized Republicans for blocking the nomination.
"Judge Bacharach’s qualifications are beyond dispute: he served as a federal judge for more than a dozen years, he was unanimously deemed 'well qualified' by the American Bar Association, and he enjoys strongly bipartisan support, including the backing of both of his Republican home-state Senators and was easily reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The American people deserve better than this unprecedented partisan obstruction of the President’s efforts to ensure a fair and functioning judiciary," she said in a statement.
Republican Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing ObamaCare repeal faces last obstacle before House vote MORE (Maine) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) voted for the motion to proceed on the nomination. Maine has a pending judicial nomination that the Senators want to see a vote on before the year ends. Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (R-Utah) voted present.
Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThis obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all Sharron Angle to challenge GOP rep in Nevada Fox's Watters asks Trump whom he would fire: Baldwin, Schumer or Zucker MORE (D-Nev.) said the Republican obstructionist tactics wouldn’t surprise him since they’ve blocked several other motions to proceed to judicial nominations this year.
Reid said, “blatant partisanship” during a presidential election year “would be to blame” if the motion to end debate on the nomination wasn’t passed.
"Is it something about him? No, it's all about politics," Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings Gorsuch: I'm 'sorry' for ruling against autistic student MORE (D-Ill.) said. "If the Republicans sustain this filibuster and stop this good man… it will be the first time in the history of the United States Senate that an appeals Court nominate with bipartisan committee support has ever — ever — been filibustered on the floor of the Senate."
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Friends, foes spar in fight on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (R-Iowa) said Democrats used the Thurmond-Leahy Rule in previous years when there was a Republican president making the appointments.
“Now that our side seeks to invoke the rule, all we hear are complaints,” Grassley said. “If ever there was an example of crocodile tears, this is it … the suggestion that we today are operating any differently than Democrats did in 2004 and 2008 is absurd."
Reid said Bacharach would likely be the last vote on a circuit court nomination this year.
— This story was updated at 6:40 p.m.