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Judicial confirmation battle looms, despite deal on executive branch nominees

Posted Jul 19, 2013 11:19 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Senate avoided a change to its filibuster rules in a deal this week that paved the way for the confirmation of three executive branch nominees. But the issue may surface again as President Obama presses for confirmation of his three nominees to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.

The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) has a story on the possible battle over the nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, considered the country’s second-most powerful court for its rulings on national security and federal regulations. Currently the circuit’s active judges are split 4-4 between Democratic and Republican nominees, but a majority of the senior judges are Republican nominees.

Since the deal approved this week, the Senate has approved former Justice Department official Thomas Perez as labor secretary, Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as leader of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Before reaching the deal, Democrats had pushed the “nuclear option” to limit filibusters. Even then, Democrats were confining their filibuster-limit efforts to executive branch nominees, the Wall Street Journal says.

Will Democrats push the “nuclear option” to limit filibusters of judicial nominees? They have used the device to block judicial nominees when they were a minority in the Senate, and they might want to use it again, Republicans have pointed out. University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman told the Wall Street Journal he sees trouble ahead in the judicial nominee battle. "Things are set up now for what could be a very tense fall," he said.

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