WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- U.S. Sen. John McCain is once again going against his fellow GOP lawmakers, this time calling for an up-or-down vote on President Barack Obama's most recent nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

McCain, a conservative Republican from Arizona, has a reputation as a "maverick" for sometimes disagreeing with his party on issues.

Last week, McCain lived up to that reputation, telling reporters that Obama's three nominees -- Cornelia "Nina" Pillard, Patricia Ann Millett and Robert Leon Wilkins -- deserve a vote.

"I've always believed that," he said in response to a question from Talking Points Memo.

Referring to his successful efforts to avoid filibuster reform, he said, "There has to be extraordinary circumstances to vote against them.

"Elections have consequences," he said, and then added with a smile: "Tragically."

McCain was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. Obama, his Democratic opponent, went on to win the election.

The senator's comments contradict most of his GOP colleagues, who insist the vacancies on the D.C. Circuit don't need to be filled.

In fact, some have gone as far as calling Obama's move to nominate the three, simultaneously, "court packing."

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., earlier this month introduced what he calls the Stop Court Packing Act, which would reduce the number of judges on the D.C. Circuit from 11 to eight.

Cotton argues that Obama knows the court has a lighter caseload, making his nominations an "obvious effort" to pack a court that has "frustrated his liberal, big-government ambitions."

It was the D.C. Circuit that ruled Obama's "intrasession appointment" of three new members to the National Labor Relations Board was an unconstitutional abuse of power because he could not make those appointments without Senate confirmation because the Senate was not in recess.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced a somewhat similar bill to Cotton's in April.

Senate Bill 699, or the Court Efficiency Act, also proposes to reduce the number of judgeships on the D.C. Circuit from 11 to eight, but adds a seat to the Second and Eleventh circuits.

Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, contends the legislation is an "efficient allocation of resources" and would save taxpayer dollars.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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