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The battle over judicial nominations in the Senate could reignite as soon as next week as Democrats look to fill what they argue are pressing vacancies.
The flashpoint could come when the Senate revisits the nomination of Caitlin Halligan of New York to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. A senior Senate Democratic aide said the chamber could take up Halligan next week.
The D.C. Circuit is considered the second-highest court in the land because of the important decisions heard by its judges.
“We think she’s an activist, we think she’s got gun problems,” Judiciary ranking member Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said Monday, referencing her position on Second Amendment issues.
Senate Republicans successfully filibustered Halligan’s nomination in December 2011. Republicans said she had an activist record and questioned the need to fill the spot.
“I would hope that the same thing happens, but I can’t predict” for sure until there is a whip count, Grassley said.
All but one Judiciary Committee Republican — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who changed his vote to “pass” from “no” — registered their opposition to Halligan on Feb. 14, when the panel approved her nomination.
“I am anticipating a 60-vote threshold,” said a GOP senator with knowledge of strategy on judicial nominations.
Republicans had argued that the caseload for the court had not warranted filling the opening, but that argument “has evaporated,” the senator said.
Nevertheless, the senator said the GOP conference would likely remain opposed because of Halligan’s alleged weak record on gun issues. Republicans contend that she has argued in favor of liability for manufacturers.
“Now that we’ve blocked her once, I suspect that the conference is going to be reluctant to back away from that,” the senator said.
Proponents of Halligan’s nomination point to her “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, its highest accolade.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who has been one of Halligan’s most vocal supporters, said her record makes her more than worthy of confirmation.
“Caitlin Halligan is a nominee that any President of any party would be proud of. She has earned the honor of this nomination through dint of hard work and native intelligence. She has dedicated almost her entire life to government service,” Schumer said in an email from his office.
Since President Barack Obama won re- election in 2012, Democrats have been looking to clear the backlog of judges, which they contend is the result of Republicans’ obstruction. Judicial vacancies currently stand at 89, and the vacancies have been close to or above 80 for more than three years.