Democrats in the Senate fumed this week as Republicans blocked another of President Barack Obama’s nominees to sit on a federal appeals court, the third woman in a series of legislative obstructions. Members of the Senate Democratic caucus have even begun to talk about invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” which would allow them to approve nominations on a simple majority.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said that Republicans “may not like” current U.S. laws like Wall Street reform or the gender and ideological bent of Pres. Obama’s nominees, but that eventually the GOP will have to end its temper tantrum and allow the American people’s business to proceed.
According to the Guardian, Georgetown University professor Nina Pillard would only have been the sixth woman in 120 years to on the U.S. court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. That court, the paper noted, “is known as the second highest court in the land due to its key role in ruling on legal challenges against the US government.”
By now the pattern of blanket obstruction to any measures proposed by the Obama administration should come as no surprise, but it is particularly galling to Democrats that even as they strip away women’s rights to choose and even make it more difficult for them to vote in states like Texas, they are opposing the ascent of any women nominees to federal judgeships, charging that Obama is trying to stack the courts with ideologues who will unthinkingly do his bidding.
“I have seen more filibusters in a year than I have seen in 35 years. I think we are at the point where there will have to be a rules change,” said Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT) to the Guardian.
He continued, “This has reached the point where judges are being voted on for political reasons, not qualifications. You do that and you are going to destroy the credibility of the federal courts.”
Republicans blocked the nomination of Patricia Ann Millett earlier this month, voting along party lines and denying Democrats the two-thirds majority needed to confirm a nominee to the court.
Similarly, they vowed in March to halt the nomination of Caitlin Halligan, who in the end withdrew her request to be nominated to the court.
Because of the court’s special status as a stepping stone to the U.S. Supreme Court, conservatives are attempting to keep any liberal judges off the bench. For the balance of judges on the bench to become more liberal could mean that some hot-button cultural issues like abortion and voting rights stay out of the hands of the conservative-leaning Supreme Court.
Sen. Warren said that Republicans are attempting to “nullify” the results of the last election by blocking any and all legislative and policy initiatives from the Obama administration and its allies.
“Republicans may not like Wall Street reform. They may not like Obamacare. But Congress passed those laws,” Warren said Wednesday. “President Obama ran for reelection on those laws, while his opponent pledged to repeal them–and his opponent lost by nearly five million votes. It is not up to judges to overturn those laws or their associated regulations just because they don’t fit those judges’ policy preferences.”
Warren and some other Democrats are raising the possibility of exercising the so-called “nuclear option,” by which they would vote to rewrite Senate rules allowing them to nominate judges by a simple majority rather than the two-thirds vote that is currently required.
“Senators not only have a right to change the filibuster rules, senators have a duty to change the filibuster rules. We cannot turn our backs on the Constitution,” she said in a speech on the Senate floor. “We have a responsibility to protect and defend our democracy, and that includes protecting the neutrality of our courts–and preserving the Constitutional power of the president to nominate highly qualified people to fill their vacancies.”
Watch Warren’s speech, embedded below via MSNBC: