Reid setting up votes on two more judicial nominees

November 5, 2013
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) plans to begin the process of considering two more nominees to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this week, just days after Senate Republicans blocked another nominee to serve on the court.

Reid told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he plans to set up procedural votes tonight on the nominations of attorney Cornelia “Nina” Pillard and U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins to serve on the court. But aides later clarified that Reid will most likely begin the process Wednesday or Thursday.

The D.C. circuit court is considered second in power only to the U.S. Supreme Court, as it issues decisions on White House and federal agency actions.

President Obama has nominated Pillard, Wilkins and attorney Patricia Millet to fill the court's three vacancies. If confirmed, they would give the court an 7-4 tilt toward those chosen by Democratic presidents.

Last week, Senate Republicans blocked a final vote on Millet's nomination. Reid took advantage of procedural tactics to switch his vote to “no” on the Millett nomination, giving him the right to force fresh votes on the nomination.

Calling up the Pillard and Wilkins nominations will continue the confirmation fight and will fuel calls by liberal senators to threaten a change in Senate rules if Republicans once again block Obama's judicial picks.

Republicans have been arguing that the D.C. Circuit Court’s workload is lighter than other districts and doesn't merit filling any of its three vacancies at the expense of other circuit courts. Republicans also accuse Democrats of wanting to turn the court into a rubber stamp for Obama administration policies.

Democrats say that the court's caseload is close to its 10-year average. They also say that when the GOP held the White House, Republicans voted to fill seats on the court.

Beginning the process of formally considering the Pillard and Wilkins nominations means Reid would probably hold a vote at some point next week.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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