Senate Republicans filibuster Obama judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan

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Mitch McConnell
Sen. Mitch McConnell (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Senate Republicans filibustered the nomination of D.C. Circuit Nominee Caitlin Halligan Tuesday, with the cloture vote failing 54-45.
Tuesday’s final roll call vote on cutting off debate was 54 to 45.. One Republican – Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) -- joined all 53 members of the Democratic caucus in voting to move ahead with Halligan’s nomination, leaving the former New York state solicitor general six votes short of the 60 votes necessary for ending debate.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who has never voted to filibuster a judicial nomination, voted "present."

President Obama said in a statement that he was "deeply disappointed" by the filibuster and argued that Halligan's nomination "fell victim to the Republican pattern of obstructionism that puts party ahead of country."

"Today's vote dramatically lowers the bar used to justify a filibuster, which had required 'extraordinary circumstances,'" Obama said. He charged that Senate Republicans "are blocking 20 other highly qualified judicial nominees" who "historically would be confirmed without delay."

As David Dayen writes, this pretty much blows the Gang of 14 to hell, the group of senators who agreed as a bloc that only "extraordinary circumstances" would bring them to filibuster a judicial nominee.

This spells the end of the Gang of 14, as members of it like Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe all voted against cloture for Halligan, despite no extraordinary circumstances involved in the case. Chuck Schumer said on the floor that there would be "lasting consequences" for this violation of the Gang of 14 agreement. I hardly believe this will bring the nuclear option back into play. So Senate Democrats can show everyone what they've got.

In a statement, Marge Baker of People for the American Way wrote that “Today’s vote has kept a talented lawyer from the bench, at least for the moment, but it has also set a new standard for D.C. Circuit nominees that will be virtually impossible for any president of either party to meet. Halligan’s nomination should not have been at all controversial– she is decidedly moderate and unquestionably qualified. If someone so unquestionably qualified and backed by top legal figures from across the political spectrum can be blocked by a filibuster, then who can’t be?”  This is someone who Miguel Estrada wrote a brief supporting.

The escalation of obstructionism from Senate Republicans will only change when they pay a price for the obstruction.

There's no question that this was a filibuster for the sole purpose of keeping an Obama judicial nominee off the bench. But what price Democrats could extract at this point isn't clear.

Senate Republicans filibuster Obama judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan
Senate Republicans filibuster Obama judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan

Senate Republicans filibuster Obama judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan
Senate Republicans filibuster Obama judicial nominee Caitlin Halligan
Posted: 2011-12-06 17:56:54Author: