Senate Republicans Filibuster Repeat DC Circuit Nominee

Senate Republicans filibustered a nominee to the second highest federal court in the nation for the second time today. Republicans assert that the President’s nominee is a judicial activist.

“I am deeply disappointed that despite support from a majority of the United States Senate, a minority of Senators continues to block the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,” President Barack Obama said in a White House statement released today. “Nearly two and a half years after being nominated, Ms. Halligan continues to wait for a simple up-or-down vote.”

Caitlin Halligan is a New York lawyer serving as the general counsel for the Manhattan district attorney’s office. President Obama first nominated her in December 2011, when she was filibustered for the first time. The President then nominated Halligan twice in 2012, but her nomination was returned both times. When the President nominated her in September, but her nomination was returned when the Senate adjourned in January before moving to a vote. The President quickly renominated her, only to face another filibuster today.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sharply criticized Halligan on the Senate floor:

“As I’ve said many times before, the role of a judge in our system is to determine what the law says, not what they or anybody else wants it to be. That is not Ms. Halligan’s view of the courts. She views them as a means to ‘enable enviable social progress and mobility’—with the judges, not the American people, using their office to determine what ‘progress’ is ‘enviable.'”

The D.C. District Court is a highly contested arena. The court has jurisdiction over much of the federal government, and four of the nine current Supreme Court justices have served there. Both parties have fought over which candidates will be given the opportunity to impact landmark legislation or one day serve on the Supreme Court, and Republicans currently insist that Halligan will not be given the chance:

In his statement, the President defended Halligan as a qualified candidate:

“In the past, filibusters of judicial nominations required “extraordinary circumstances,” and a Republican Senator who was part of this agreement articulated that only an ethics or qualification issue – not ideology – would qualify. Ms. Halligan has always practiced law with the highest ethical ideals, and her qualifications are beyond question. Furthermore, her career in public service and as a law enforcement lawyer, serving the citizens of New York, is well within the mainstream.”

The President then continued his criticism of Republican tactics:

“Today’s vote continues the Republican pattern of obstruction. My judicial nominees wait more than three times as long on the Senate floor to receive a vote than my predecessor’s nominees. The effects of this obstruction take the heaviest toll on the D.C. Circuit, considered the Nation’s second-highest court, which now has only seven active judges and four vacancies. Until last month, for more than forty years, the court has always had at least eight active judges and as many as twelve.”

Halligans received 51 votes to cut off debate and move to a final vote, with only one Republican voting in favor. The number was nine short of the 60 Senate votes needed to overcome the Republican filibuster.

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