So, how’s that agreement to limit filibusters and prevent mindless Republican obstructionism working out?
Senate Republicans on Tuesday filibustered the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, blocking a nominee tapped last year by President Obama to serve on one of the country’s most powerful courts.
Tuesday’s final roll call vote on cutting off debate was 54 to 45. One Republican – Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) – joined all 53 members of the Democratic caucus in voting to move ahead with Halligan’s nomination, leaving the former New York state solicitor general six votes short of the 60 votes necessary for ending debate.
The broken process is becoming increasingly ridiculous. Halligan was clearly qualified, and Republicans spent the last decade insisting that to deny judicial nominees up-or-down votes is to tear at the fabric of American democracy.
And yet, here we are. Republicans said Halligan’s work on a New York case against gun manufacturers and her membership on a Bar Association panel that criticized Bush administration detainee policy necessarily meant Halligan does not deserve – and cannot have – a simple vote.
Note, Halligan was nominated to serve on the D.C. circuit, widely seen as a first-among-equals at the federal appellate level, and often a stepping stone for the U.S. Supreme Court. With Republicans having stopped this nomination, the President Obama has named exactly zero jurists to this specific federal bench. What’s more, as Joan McCarter explained, the D.C. circuit still has four vacancies – about a third of the bench – which hampers the ability of the court to do its job.
Also keep in mind, the “Gang of 14” compromise agreed all judicial nominees deserve an up-or-down vote barring “extraordinary circumstances.” With Halligan and Goodwin Liu blocked from the judiciary, it would appear that this compromise is now dead.
After this and the first-ever filibuster of a cabinet nominee last month, it’s pretty easy to make the case that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) needs to revisit the useless reform package agreed to in January.