Senate Republicans block second D.C. Circuit nominee

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Nov 12, 2013

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- Senate Republicans again have blocked one of President Barack Obama's nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

For the second time in weeks, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on a nominee to the court, considered by some to be the second most important in the country after the U.S. Supreme Court.

This time around, senators voted 56-41 on Cornelia "Nina" Pillard -- just shy of the 60 votes needed to end debate. One senator voted present.

Cloture is the only procedure by which the Senate can vote to place a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter -- in this case, a judicial nomination -- and thereby overcome a filibuster.

Under the cloture rule, the Senate may limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours, but only by a vote of three-fifths of the full Senate, normally 60 votes.

Last month, Senate Republicans blocked Obama's other D.C. Circuit nominee, Patricia Millett. Millett currently heads Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP's Supreme Court practice and co-heads the firm's national appellate practice.

Millett was five votes shy of the 60 needed to invoke cloture.

Obama's third nominee to the court, Robert Leon Wilkins, also is expected to be blocked. Wilkins, who was nominated in June along with Pillard and Millett, has served as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since 2010.

Republicans continue to argue that the D.C. Circuit doesn't need more than its current eight judges.

Democrats are threatening to rewrite Senate rules if the GOP continues to derail the President's judicial nominations.

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

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