By a narrow 52-48 vote, the Senate on Thursday changed decades-old rules allowing for filibusters of judicial nominees, endorsing the so-called “nuclear option” that could change American politics forever after.
“Today’s rules change will end this unprecedented abuse of the filibuster and allow us to begin to break through the gridlock that has frustrated Virginians and prevented us from tackling so many important issues facing our country,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who voted with the majority.
Senate Republicans have blocked 21 judicial appointments by President Obama using the filibuster, which required 60 votes to clear the procedural hurdle of unlimited debate before proceeding to a final up-or-down vote.
Obama, himself a former senator, backed the move led by Senate Democrats, which still allows for filibusters on Supreme Court nominees, but not on nominees to federal district court and appeals judgeships.
“A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to refight the result of an election, is not normal,” Obama said. “For the sake of future generations, we can’t let it become normal.”
Kaine cited the filibuster of Pattie Millett to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals as being part of the “unprecedented” approach by Republicans.
“The only explanation for blocking the consideration of a nominee like Ms. Millett – a military spouse who has served under both Democratic and Republican solicitor generals, has argued more cases before the Supreme Court and circuit courts than all but a handful of attorneys and is uniformly praised by bar groups – is that Republicans have committed to pursuing a strategy of nullifying the law to achieve their goals,” Kaine said.
“Their decision to block four highly-qualified nominees to the D.C. Circuit since I took office 11 months ago – three in the last three weeks alone – is proof that the goal was to nullify the law that says the D.C. Circuit has 11 judges,” Kaine said.