Coming Soon: The Next Judicial Nomination War

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 28 2013 1:03 PM

Coming Soon: The Next Judicial Nomination War

Later this week it's likely that Democrats will file for cloture on the nomination of attorney Patricia Millett for a judgeship on the D.C. Circuit. It is likely that Republicans will oppose this. As Sahil Kapur explained in August, when the Senate Judiciary Committee gave Millett a partisan 10–8 recommendation, Republicans have coalesced around Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's idea to shrink the D.C. Circuit, stamping in place (for now) a conservative majority. You know, like the majority that ruled against Obama's recess appointments.

"It is clear that the President wants to pack the court with individuals whom he believes will rubber-stamp his agenda," Grassley said in September. "When a President seeks to fill a court with ideological allies for the purpose of reversing certain policy outcomes, that is packing the court."

An amateur scholar of "court-packing" would find that claim sort of ridiculous. FDR wanted to expand the size of the SCOTUS, to outnumber the conservatives; Obama wants to fill empty chairs. But this is the consensus GOP position now.

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"Republicans should remain united in blocking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt to pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals," wrote Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the party whip, last week. "Senator Reid has made no secret of his intent: Over the summer, he told Nevada Public Radio that Democrats were hoping to 'switch the majority' on the D.C. Circuit to make it a rubberstamp for big-government liberalism. Republicans have objected to this power grab, and we should continue to do so."

Not even six months have passed since the talk-through that allegedly settled the "nuclear option" fight. 

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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