Filibuster Blocks Senate Vote on Appeals Court Nominee

Senate Republicans have blocked an up-or-down vote on  President Obama’s nomination of Magistrate Judge Robert Bacharach to the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, although Bacharach had bipartisan backing.

On a  motion to cut off a Republican filibuster, the Senate voted 56-34. Sixty votes were needed to proceed to a confirmation vote by the full Senate. Bacharach’s home-state senators, Tom Coburn and James Inhofe, voted “present.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office indicated that no more confirmation votes on appeals court judges would be attempted before the presidential election, according to a Blog of Legal Times report. The freeze on confirmation votes for high-level judges has come after Senate Republicans invoked the so-called “Thurmond Rule,” a loose custom used to block confirmation of high-level judicial nominees in the runup to a presidential election (see Gavel Grab).

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was critical of the GOP filibuster, according to a Washington Post article.

The filibuster is “another example of how extreme Senate Republicans have gone in their efforts to obstruct judicial confirmations,” he said. “Never before has the Senate filibustered and refused to vote on a judicial nominee with such strong bipartisan support who was voted out of the Judiciary Committee with virtually unanimous support.”

White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler said, “The American people deserve better than this unprecedented partisan obstruction of the president’s efforts to ensure a fair and functioning judiciary.” Almost one out of 11 federal judgeships is vacant, she added.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., described the freeze as following Senate tradition for “a bipartisan timeout” before the presidential election in November.

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