President Obama today announced his intention to nominate three judges to the nation's second highest court, accusing Republicans of blocking his selections for political reasons in remarks the White House pool report described as "fiery."
Obama complained that Senate Republicans were blocking his nominees to the court for political reasons despite bipartisan support in the Senate.
"What I'm doing today is my job," Obama said in the Rose Garden. "I need the Senate to do its job."
He said his effort to fill vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is not "court packing," as charged by his Republican critics -- but an attempt to fill vacancies.
"We’re not adding seats here. We're trying to fill seats that are already existing," Obama said. " Each of the past five presidents has seen at least three of their nominees confirmed to the D.C. Circuit. Since I've been president, obstruction has slowed that down to one"
The pool report said the audience of supporters from advocacy groups and the executive branch laughed as Obama refuted the court-packing claims, but the three nominees, standing with him, did not change their expressions.
Obama twice said that his nominees have taken three times as long to get confirmation votes from the Senate than the nominees "of my Republican predecessor," yet when they are voted on, they're confirmed
"So this is not about principled opposition," he charged, "This is about political obstruction."
Obama acknowledged that Democrats in the Senate tried the same tactics and that "neither party has a perfect track record here." But he called the delays on his nominations "unprecedented" and said that "for the good of the American people, it has to stop." He noted the D.C. Circuit is considered the second highest court in the country and that it often has the final say on cases ranging from national security, environmental policy, campaign finance and workers' rights.
Obama's nominees include:
Patricia Millett, an appellate attorney who until recently held the record for the most Supreme Court arguments by a female lawyer. She also served in the Solicitor General's office for 11 years, under Democratic and Republican presidents, Obama said.
Nina Pillard, a Georgetown University professor who twice served in the Department of Justice and was an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Judge Robert Wilkins, whom Obama in 2010 nominated to the D.C. District Court -- he was confirmed without opposition.
"These are no slouches. These are no hacks. They are incredibly accomplished lawyers by all accounts," Obama said. "So there's no reason -- aside from politics -- for Republicans to block these individuals from getting an up or down vote."
He said a Republican proposal to reduce the number of judges on the court "makes no sense. When a Republican was president, 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court made complete sense. Now that a Democrat is president, it apparently doesn't. Eight is suddenly enough. People are laughing because it's obviously a blatant political move."
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