The Senate's habit of filibustering judicial nominees must end. Both Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
Nearly two and a half years after she was first nominated, a candidate for a seat on a federal appeals court in Washington has been denied an up-or-down confirmation vote by Senate Republicans who persist in obstructing President Obama's judicial appointments. But the blame must be shared by the Senate's Democratic leadership, which can't bring itself to repudiate the undemocratic institution of the filibuster.
Earlier this month, 51 senators voted to end debate on the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit — nine short of the required supermajority necessary to break the filibuster and proceed toward a vote. Only one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted in favor of cloture.
Halligan, the general counsel for the district attorney of Manhattan, has been rated "well qualified" by the American Bar Assn. She is being opposed by Republicans on the hoary grounds that she would be a "judicial activist." The supposed proof for that assertion is that, as solicitor general for the state of New York, she filed suit against firearms manufacturers seeking to hold them responsible for contributing to the "public nuisance" of gun violence. Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, complained that Halligan had advanced a "novel legal theory," which of course is something lawyers often do on behalf of their clients. (Grassley also claimed that Halligan's legal arguments reflected her personal views about guns, which might or might not be true — but even if it were, it wouldn't predict how she would rule as a judge.)