McConnell Questions ‘Appropriateness’ Of Confirming New Obama Judicial Nominees

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday signaled he may not let any of President Obama’s nominees to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals come to a vote.

At his weekly press conference, McConnell didn’t commit to using a filibuster to block up-or-down votes on Obama’s three new picks to the second highest federal court, but questioned “the appropriateness of confirming these three judges.”

He dodged a question about whether he believes the nominees should only be filibustered under “extraordinary circumstances” — which is theoretically the standard senators have agreed to for when it’s appropriate for the minority to block nominees.“I think the issue, if there is one, with regard to the D.C. Circuit, is whether this circuit court — which is apparently less busy than all but one circuit court in the nation — needs to have a full complement of judges,” he said. (Democrats have retorted that the court’s caseload may not be high but that it deals with extraordinarily complicated cases.)

The nominees are attorney Patricia Ann Millett, Georgetown law professor Cornelia Pillard and U.S. District Court Judge Robert Leon Wilkins. Obama said Tuesday they were all extraordinarily qualified and demanded that Republicans not block their nominations.

McConnell referred to Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who has introduced a bill to reduce the size of the D.C. Circuit Court from 11 to eight active judges.

Asked again if the nominees can expect to get up-or-down votes, McConnell demurred.

“We’re going to deal with those nominees as we have others,” he said. “You know, we’ve confirmed an overwhelming number of judges for President Obama. … So the president’s been treated very fairly on judicial [nominees].”

He repeatedly warned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has threatened to go nuclear and scrap the filibuster for nominees with 51 votes, to take that option off the table.

“I’m going to move those just as quickly as I can,” Reid said Tuesday of the nominees. Asked by a reporter what he’ll do if Republicans block one of more of them from coming to a vote, the majority leader responded, “I don’t know. I’ll have to take that one when we get there.”

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