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Senate GOP Vows Golden Rule on Judges

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the “gang of 14” that came to a 2005 agreement to not filibuster judicial nominees outside of extraordinary circumstances, says he expects more of President Barack Obama’s nominees to be approved next year.

“We don’t want to abuse [the filibuster of judicial nominees] because abusing it is wrong,” Lee said. “But also there are consequences attached to abusing it and that is [another reason] why we are not abusing it.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she is cautiously optimistic that more judges will be confirmed. She is helping to guide Morgan Christen’s nomination to join the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals through the Senate.

“When we were looking at the schedule earlier this session, the mindset was that we would be able to get to her before the end of the year,” Murkowski said. “She has unanimous support coming out of the Judiciary Committee. In a confirmation hearing, there was not a cautionary word ... so I think that all is good. It remains to be seen how good.”

Graham stressed that his opposition to Halligan had more to do with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals than her qualifications. Republicans contend that the court’s workload isn’t enough to merit another judge.

Republicans argued that they had sought to fill the spot under President George W. Bush, but Democrats used the same argument about the workload being too light.

“They opposed a Republican nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court because it was overprescribed,” Graham said. “Some of us agreed with it then. I am not about to go to my Republican colleagues and say ‘Alright, let’s give them a position that they said was overprescribed.’”

“Your prior position is coming back to haunt you,” Graham said of Democratic opposition under a GOP president. 

Others said that Halligan had extreme views, which rose to the level of an extraordinary circumstance as specified in the gang of 14 agreement. GOP Members opposed her particularly because of what they said were her views on the Second Amendment. That was also the reason cited by Heritage Action for America, which “key voted” her nomination, arguing that her position on gun rights was unpalatable.

After Tuesday’s vote, Democrats cast it as a strictly partisan move that called into question the gang of 14 agreement and possibly threatened future judicial nominees.

Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who runs the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications operations, was particularly incensed because Halligan is from New York and Schumer was leading the effort to get her nomination through the Senate.

“If Republicans are going to suddenly junk that [gang of 14] six-year armistice, it could risk throwing the Senate into chaos on judicial nominees. Senate Republicans seem to want to declare open season for filibusters of judges again,” Schumer said.

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