Federal Courts and Nominations

Keeping up the fight after the Halligan filibuster

On Wednesday, a minority of Senators inflicted both insult and injury to the justice system by again derailing the confirmation of Caitlin Halligan, to the Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit. With a nearly party-line vote of 51-41, the Senate’s conservatives overrode the cloture motion that would have gotten Halligan an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor at last, after first being nominated by President Obama in 2010.

CAC’s Vice President Judith Schaeffer had this reaction:

“Today’s vote is a breathtaking example of the partisan dysfunction that is crippling Washington, DC. This Senate Republican filibuster leaves the second most important court in our Nation with nearly 40% of its judicial seats vacant, impairing justice and putting an enormous toll on the judiciary as well as on the lives of extraordinarily well-qualified nominees such as Caitlin Halligan. A minority in the Senate turned away a nominee who Americans are lucky to have willing to serve their country, which can only discourage other highly qualified candidates from stepping forward in the future.”

Wednesday’s vote was a deeply felt blow among all who fought for Halligan’s confirmation over the past three years.  But it was also an indication of just how important it is to fill these important vacancies on this critical court.  There are now four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, twice as many as when Halligan was first nominated.  One additional nominee, Sri Srinivasan, is working his way through the confirmation process.  He cannot stand alone.  President Obama should nominate a full slate of qualified candidates for each of these vacancies as soon as possible. He and his supporters should vow to devote energy and resources to all of these fights.  It is still very early in President Obama’s second term.   It is unlikely that Senate Republicans would be able to sustain an effort to block highly qualified nominees indefinitely against a sustained push from the White House and the progressive movement.

Completing this job successfully will take hard work and perseverance both from the President and his supporters, but there are few things more vital on the President’s second term agenda.