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D.C. Circuit Nominee Millett Blocked by Senate Republicans

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on November 05, 2013 2:55 PM

Senate Republicans blocked voting on an Obama nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last  Thursday, with Senate Democrats refusing to use the "nuclear option" they'd been threatening.

According to The Washington Post, Patricia Millett's confirmation was blocked after the Senate failed to reach a 3/5 majority to bring Millet's nomination to a vote. Senate Republicans also blocked the nomination of another Obama nominee to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

What does this mean for Millet's chances to ascend to the D.C. Circuit bench?

Blocked But Not Defeated

Although Millett's hopes for a seat on the D.C. Circuit are probably a little dampened by the vote on Thursday, the procedural block by Senate Republicans is not necessarily a death knell to Millet's appellate court dreams.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) had pushed hard to work Millett through the confirmation process as many believed she was key to changing the makeup of the D.C. Circuit. No doubt part of this fundamental change they hoped Millett's confirmation would herald would be a revisiting of the recess appointment cases.

Now with Millett's momentum to the D.C. Circuit slowed, it is up to Senate Democrats to consider how hard they will push to have Millett confirmed. Sen. Reid told the Post that "he didn't know whether the Senate would reconsider Millett's nomination," but the option is still available.

The Hill reports that White House spokesman Jay Carney said Millet was "extraordinarily qualified," and the Republican votes to block her seemed "astoundingly hypocritical."

Future Unclear For Remaining Nominees

Since it appears that Senate Republicans are currently on a rejection trip, the prospects for the other two D.C. Circuit nominees remain uncertain.

Nina Pillard, the other female nominee to the D.C. Circuit, had been blasted for her "radical feminist" views during her hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, so her outlook against the full Republican host isn't too rosy.

The remaining nominee, Robert Wilkins, had just cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but remarks during his Committee vote were less than supportive. The Huffington Post reported that Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) stated, like a stalwart assistant manager at TGI Fridays, "[t]he court doesn't need any more judges at this time."

With Republicans categorically opposed to any nominees, the question remains whether Senate Democrats will use the "nuclear option" -- changing the Senate's rules on filibuster so that a simple majority will suffice for nominees. As the Post reports, our malarkey-eschewing Vice President Joe Biden believes "it's worth considering" the filibuster changes.

Bottom Line

Millett's chances may be sufficiently dashed, but as Yoda said "there is another"... D.C. Circuit nominee or two to push through.

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