They did it again. Tuesday evening, extremists in the U.S. Senate blocked yet another highly-qualified nominee to the federal judiciary, filibustering the appointment of law professor Nina Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court. If you are keeping score at home, this is the second filibuster of a qualified nominee to that Court in as many weeks -- and Senate Republicans are already pledging to block a third nominee next week. They won't even allow a simple, fair up-or-down vote on three exceptionally accomplished nominees.
These extremists wouldn't be engaging in this kind of gridlock -- and we wouldn't be fighting back so hard -- if these appointments didn't matter. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is one of the most important courts in the country, often recognized as second only behind the Supreme Court of the United States. Moreover, its often the venue where the final word on critical clean air, clean water, and climate protections is determined -- among an array of other issues vital to the health of our communities, our economy, and our families.
That's why President Obama appointed three highly-qualified, highly-accomplished legal experts to fill three vacancies in June -- and why they've been stalled ever since. It is no surprise that many reckless Senate Republicans will do anything it takes to keep seats on the D.C. Circuit Court vacant: If they were filled, it could bring balance to the court and ensure our most important laws are enforced fairly.
Each of the three nominees would ensure our federal justice system looks like America, by adding two women and an African American to the bench. As Senator Patrick Leahy said on the Senate floor this week, these are nominees who earned their way to the top of their profession.
Let's be clear: The president's three nominees deserve appointment, and these extremists are not debating their qualifications. Pillard is considered one of the most experienced advocates in the country, having argued nine cases before the Supreme Court. Patricia Millett held the record for most Supreme Court arguments by a female attorney and served in the Solicitor General's office under both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. Robert Wilkins won unanimous confirmation as a judge to a U.S. District Court in 2010 after a distinguished 18 year career as a public defender and in private practice.
So what is the hold up?
The truth is the band of shameless extremists in the Senate could not care less about how well-qualified these nominees are. They'll block them from doing their job simply because they and their allies -- like big polluters and other extremists -- are the only ones who benefit from the unprecedented gridlock they've created.
We learned during the recent government shutdown that of the few people who actually liked the gridlock, big polluters and their pals are the ones who are among the most outspoken. We shouldn't expect that to change now.
We've all heard about the kid who takes the ball with him and runs home when he's losing. But extremists in the Senate aren't just satisfied with going home. Instead, they are deflating the ball, knocking down the goalposts, and bulldozing the field. But we can't let our courts or our government be the cost of their political games.
The American people deserve a fully-functional judiciary that can enforce our most important laws fairly -- and that means Pillard, MIllett, and WIlkins deserve a simple-up-or-down vote immediately. If extremist Republicans continue to engage in unprecedented obstruction, we must move forward with common sense reform that prevents the abuse of the rules and lets the Senate get back to the business of governing.
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