Senate Republicans Block Third U.S. Appeals Court Nominee

Senate Republicans blocked the last of President Barack Obama’s three nominees to a federal appeals court considered second only to the U.S. Supreme Court in importance because of its influence over government regulation.

The 53-38 vote was shy of the 60 needed to advance the nomination of U.S. District Judge Robert L. Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Republicans argue the caseload is insufficient to justify filling three vacancies on the 11-member court, which often rules on challenges to regulations from such agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Communications Commission.

Obama said in a statement today he is “deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans have once again refused to do their job” and urged the Senate again to take a yes-or-no vote on his judicial nominees.

“This obstruction is completely unprecedented,” he said.

In a floor speech, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats were trying to “concoct a crisis on the D.C. Circuit” so they can “distract Americans from the failings of Obamacare.”

Senate Democrats should instead seek votes to fill vacancies where the U.S. court system has declared a judicial emergency to denote a shortage of judges on courts with overwhelming caseloads “rather than complain about a fake one,” McConnell said.

‘Manufactured Excuse’

Democratic Whip Dick Durbin called the workload argument “a manufactured excuse for them to filibuster an Obama nominee.” The Illinois senator said when George W. Bush was president “Republicans were eager to confirm nominees for the ninth, 10th and 11th seats on the D.C. Circuit.”

On Oct. 31, the Senate blocked consideration of Washington lawyer Patricia Millett for another vacancy on the court. On Nov. 12, Republicans blocked Georgetown University law professor Nina Pillard’s nomination to a vacancy on the same court.

The actions have revived a call from some Democrats for a change in the Senate’s rules to ban or curb moves to block judicial and some executive-branch nominees.

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