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Obama Challenges Republican Senators with his Judicial Nominees
President Barack Obama seeks to simultaneously nominate three judges for federal court positions later this year, in what many see as a challenge to the Republican tactic of filibustering judicial nominees. Three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will soon need to be filled, and by making his nominations all at once, the president hopes to bypass the filibustering that has become common during the approval process for his judicial nominees and is creating a staffing crisis for judges in key roles.
Though the names of the nominees have yet to be announced by Obama and his administration, his strategy for getting his nominees through the Senate approval process will be to make all three nominations at the same time. In his five years in office, Obama has struggled to have any of his judicial nominees approved by the Senate, and Republican Senators have used filibusters to prevent a vote on most of his past nominees.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is considered to be one of the most important courts in the country, and typically seats 11 judges. Currently, there are 8 sitting judges on the court, including last week’s confirmation of Sri Srinivasan. Four of the active judges on the court have been appointed by Democrats, and four have been appointed by Republicans.
Rather than allow Obama to push through his three nominees, the New York Times reports that Republican lawmakers are pushing through measures to eliminate the three vacant seats from the court entirely. They feel that Obama is using the vacancies to stack the court with liberal-leaning judges.
Part of Obama’s strategy to get his nominees appointed to the D.C. court is to schedule the three, and perhaps more, confirmations for a short period of time in the summer. If one judge’s nomination is blocked, it will be business as usual, but if several judge nominations are blocked in that short time period, Obama hopes that the media and the general public will take notice of the events.
“A single blocked nomination may not generate much publicity, but by blocking so many nominees at once, the Republicans are overplaying their hand,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said on Thursday. “The other side must be careful.”
In addition to the general importance of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the court has undermined several of Obama’s initiatives since he took office. His focus on filling these open seats is viewed by many as a political move that will help legislation he hopes to pass.