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Senate Republicans Block Third Nominee to D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

Jessica Mason Pieklo

On Monday, Senate Republicans successfully blocked Judge Robert Wilkins' nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, bringing to a head the fight between the Obama administration and conservatives over the future of the second most powerful court in the country.

On Monday, Senate Republicans successfully blocked President Obama’s third nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, bringing to a head the fight between the Obama administration and conservatives over the future of the second most powerful court in the country.

Judge Robert Wilkins, currently serving on Washington’s federal district court, failed to clear the 60-vote threshold required to advance for a floor vote. In 2010, the Senate unanimously confirmed Wilkins to his current post on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. But this time Wilkins was not so lucky. The Senate voted 53-38 on the nomination, with only two Republican senators—Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—voting for cloture on Wilkins’ nomination.

“Just three years ago, Senate Republicans found Robert Wilkins perfectly qualified to be a federal judge,” Marge Baker, executive vice president of People for the American Way, said in a statement. “Now, they’re filibustering his nomination to the D.C. Circuit simply because they don’t want President Obama to be able to fill that court’s vacancies.”

Baker compared the Republican strategy of blocking judicial nominees to earlier efforts to shut down the government over health-care reform. “This is the latest example of Republicans in Congress attempting to circumvent laws they don’t like simply by obstructing the workings of government. They shut down the government in an attempt to nullify the health care law,” Baker added. “They routinely filibuster nominees to executive agencies and departments that they don’t want to function. And now they’re going after judicial nominees simply because they don’t like the result of last year’s presidential election.”

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With Senate conservatives successfully blocking Wilkins’ nomination from advancing, he joins president Obama’s other two nominees, Georgetown Law professor Nina Pillard and private attorney Patricia Millett, as candidates to the bench whose nominations are still alive and able to be considered by the Senate, just unable to advance to an up-or-down vote thanks to Republican obstructionism. Earlier in the year, another nominee, Caitlin Halligan, withdrew her nomination after anti-choice activists joined forces with the National Rifle Association to block it.

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