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Filibuster Tests Senate Agreement on Judicial Nominees

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Charles Schumer said that an agreement on judicial nominees has been violated because of a GOP filibuster for a recent nominee.

Nine of the original members remain in the Senate. Under the accord, the members of the group would not vote with their party on filibustering judicial nominees, except in the case of extraordinary circumstances as defined by each individual Senator.

The Senate has for the most part continued to adhere to the agreement. Only two judges have been filibustered since 2005: Goodwin Liu and Halligan.

“I consider this an extraordinary case,” Senate GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said.

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who runs the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications operations, took to the Senate floor to declare that the vote violated the agreement. Halligan is from New York, and Schumer was leading the effort to get her nomination through the Senate.

“The approach taken by Senate Republicans will have lasting consequences beyond this one nomination. It seems to me that a vote against this nominee could well be a vote to declare the gang of 14 agreement null and void,” Schumer said.

Senate Republican leadership aides charged that Schumer does not have credibility on the issue, saying he led the charge on judicial filibusters when his party was in the minority in 2003 and 2005.

Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, also said this was a watershed moment.

“Let me be clear: Senate Republicans blocked a supremely qualified nominee today,” Kendall said in a release. “Halligan is a lawyer’s lawyer. She clerked for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court, she has a long and distinguished record of service in New York, and she has support across party lines — including from former George W. Bush nominee Miguel Estrada.  She is an exemplary nominee, supported by a majority of Senators. She was first nominated in 2010, and she should have been sitting on the D.C. Circuit by now.”

Republicans disagreed and argued that the agreement is still in effect.

“We said that in extreme circumstances,” a filibuster could be made, said gang of 14 member Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).: “She clearly fits in that category.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said, “Ms. Halligan’s publicly stated positions on the Second Amendment, terrorism, and other legal questions are troubling. Ms. Halligan’s views reflect someone who believes in vast judicial powers to shape and rewrite the law, which is a threat to our tradition of American law.”

Also working against Halligan was Heritage Action for America, which “key voted” her nomination, arguing that her position on gun rights was unpalatable.

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