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Republicans block another Obama nominee

Kush Azrael | 12/18/2013, 1:16 p.m.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is one of the most influential courts in the land ...

Republicans have blocked yet another President Barack Obama nominee to a federal appeals court stirring a fight in the Senate over nomination rules.

The Senate voted 53-38 just seven votes short of the needed 60 votes to send Judge Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Senate Republicans also refused to allow a floor vote on Cornelia Pillard to the same court after they had also prevented votes on Caitlin Halligan. The only nominee to be confirmed to the D.C. appeals court this year is Sri Srinivasan.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is one of the most influential courts in the land because it regularly rules on the constitutionality of new laws and regulations. It’s oftentimes the next step away from the U.S. Supreme Court.

All the members of the Democratic caucus voted for Wilkins and so did two Republicans.

Democrats feel that the Republicans are denying President Obama his constitutional right to appoint judges and administration officials.

This ongoing dispute almost ended when an agreement was made that freed up some of the administration appointments.

Republicans claim the Democrats are trying to create an imbalance in a court whose workload is already too light. They had even pursued legislation to cut the three vacancies. Republicans also charge that Democrats are trying to distract people from the new healthcare laws that they say are causing people to lose their insurance.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is tired of the Republican filibusters of the president’s nominee’s and believes it is all motivated by race. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to do something about the blocking of presidential nominees and he enjoys strong support from Black Democrats. The CBC is still angered by the stalled nomination Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., to be head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and even more so about Wilkins. CBC members have cited the number of minorities and women who have been blocked as reasons why race may be a factor. Rep. Charles Rangel D-N.Y. has even called the Republicans, descendants of Confederates.

However, there is not much House Democrats can do to force Senate Republicans to fall back on their position.

But, Harry Reid may have come up with a solution. He said he had no other choice but to pull out the “nuclear threat” – a change in Senate rules that would almost eliminate the threat of filibusters for most presidential nominees since the Republicans have blocked so many of the president’s nominees. Although it has already been adopted, the change won’t apply to Supreme Court nominees. However, it limits the ability of the minority party, which is the Republicans as of right now, to use filibusters to slow or block nominees since now it will only take a simple majority to end the debate.