by Jeremy Leaming
Despite the so-called “rules reform” the ardent Republican obstructionists that occupy the U.S. Senate are at it again – filibustering Caitlin Halligan for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Speaking of the rules reform, it was convenient that it only applied to nominations to U.S. District Courts, allowing obstinate obstructionists to carry on a war on the courts or more specifically President Obama’s selections for the nation’s appeals courts.
And in this case, yet another woman nominee is being obstructed. Yes, Republicans and some commentators claim minority and women nominees are not being targeted, but that claim turns wobbly when we look at the lengths of time it has taken for many women and minority nominees to be confirmed as opposed to their white-male counterparts. For example, federal court nominees Mary Murgia, Jill Pryor, Arvo Mikkanen, Natasha Perdw Silas, Linda Walker and Elissa Cadish have all suffered from obstructionism, causing several of them to withdraw their nominations.
In the case of Halligan (pictured), the general counsel for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the wait for an up-or-down confirmation vote has been ludicrous – she’s been nominated and renominated four times by the president. And an up-or-down vote on her nomination is not assured now. The obstructionists appear bent on keeping as many seats on what is considered the second most powerful court in the land open. Maybe the obstructionists hope that in four years Republicans will capture the White House and they’ll control the Senate and be able to return to packing the federal bench with right-wing jurists.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy today urged his Republican colleagues to dump the filibuster and give Halligan an up-or-down vote, noting that the D.C. appeals court hears some of the nation’s most pressing constitutional matters, especially on separation of powers and national security concerns and that the court has longstanding vacancies that need to be filled. (A court, regardless of what a right-wing blogger might utter, does need a full bench of active judges to adequately and efficiently function.)
Press Secretary Jay Carney also weighed in during the March 5 press briefing, noting the D.C. appeals court’s caseload has swelled because of the vacancies. “In fact,” Carney said, “the court has never been this understaffed in its history and the caseload has increased almost 15 percent since 2011. (In a column for The Washington Post, retired U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Judge Patricia M. Wald, explains the constraints the vacancies have placed on the court’s active judges.)