Obama to offer three nominees at once to the D.C. Circuit

President Obama will name three nominees at once to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the near future, according to a Democrat briefed on the matter who asked not to be identified.

The decision to push aggressively to fill the three remaining vacancies on one of the nation's most powerful courts, which was first reported by The New York Times on Monday, comes just days after the Senate confirmed Sri Srinivasan to sit on the court last week. Thursday's unanimous vote in favor of Srinivasan's appointment marked the first time since 2006 the Senate has approved a presidential nominee to the D.C. Circuit.

The president has yet to select which three individuals he will propose for the vacancies, according to the Democrat, who asked not to be identified because the decision is still under review.

The D.C. Circuit is particularly critical because it rules on an array of executive branch decisions, including those on the environment.

Obama has faced fierce resistance to some of his judicial nominees, including New York lawyer Caitlin Halligan, whom the president had previously nominated to the D.C. Circuit. The president withdrew Halligan's name in March in the face of Republican opposition. Other nominees have had to wait for more than a year to receive confirmation votes on the Senate floor.

While Senate Republicans have criticized the president for not offering enough judicial nominees, they may very well block any attempt to name three judges on the D.C. Circuit at once. On May 16, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told his colleagues on the panel that while he could support Srinivasan's nomination he questioned whether the D.C. Circuit really needed 11 judges on the bench.

"We need to hold hearings on the D.C. Circuit and examine its workload," said Grassley, who had supported the idea of having 11 judges on the court during the previous administration. In light of the current number of cases facing the court, Grassley said, "in regard to further nominees to this court, there’s going to be a need to show the seats need to be filled."

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Philip Rucker | May 28, 2013