Senate Republicans are standing firm by their threat to block every one of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, insisting on eliminating all three vacant seats on the country’s second most powerful court.
If they follow through, it could spark yet another nuclear showdown over filibuster rules.
The first of Obama’s three picks, Patricia Millett, was narrowly approved Thursday by the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote of 10-8. Every Republican voted against her, although they didn’t criticize her or take issue with her qualifications. They merely argued that the court is under-worked and that nobody ought to fill those seats.
“I have nothing against her but we should not be adding to that bench,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a senior Republican on the committee, told TPM on Thursday afternoon.
Republicans appear to be united behind Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) legislation to reduce the number of active judges on the D.C. Circuit court from 11 to eight. He proposes eliminating one seat, transferring one to the Second Circuit and transferring another to the 11th Circuit. (During the Bush administration, Grassley led a successful effort to reduce the size of the D.C. Circuit court from 12 to 11.)
“It’s way overstaffed,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), another Judiciary Committee member, told TPM on Thursday. “It does not need these judges, and we don’t have the money.”
Democrats flatly dismiss the Grassley effort as a ploy to maintain the strong conservative tilt of the court, which often has the final word over the constitutionality of executive power decisions and has invalidated various executive actions by President Obama, on issues like labor and environmental regulations and recess appointments. They argue that despite the court’s relatively low caseload, it takes extraordinarily complex cases.