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Republicans Split on Judicial Nominees

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Collins has urged the Senate to confirm a judge to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes her home state of Maine in its jurisdiction. Republican leaders have blocked all judicial confirmations since September.

Inhofe is also pushing for lame-duck confirmation of two stalled nominees from Oklahoma: Robert E. Bacharach for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and John E. Dowdell for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, an aide said. Oklahoma’s other Republican senator, Tom Coburn, also supports their confirmation and said in a Nov. 7 interview with The Oklahoman that Obama’s re-election means the two nominees will “fly through” the Senate.

Some Republican aides are downplaying the likelihood of that outcome, however. A senior GOP Senate aide said this week that lame-duck judicial confirmations are rare during presidential election years. President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 “is the only time in recent memory that it happened, and even then, only a few district court nominees were processed,” the aide said.

Republicans have also seized on a floor remark made by Reid in July, when he filed for cloture in an unsuccessful attempt to confirm Bacharach.

“This will be our last circuit court judge,” Reid said at the time.

Republican aides say Reid’s statement commits him to not holding confirmation votes on Bacharach, Kayatta and other appeals court nominees until next year. Democratic aides, however, say Reid was referring to confirmation votes on appeals court nominees before last week’s elections, not to the end of the calendar year.

Republicans have sent their own mixed messages. Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, for example, said on the floor in July that some circuit court nominees could receive votes after the elections, even though other Republicans now appear to be backing away from that position.

“If there are excellent nominees by the president to the circuit courts, well, the election is only four months away,” Alexander said. “If he is re-elected, they can be confirmed in November and December.”

Obama signaled Wednesday he may place a greater emphasis on judicial nominations in his second term than he did in his first, nominating seven new candidates to district court judgeships and one to a special trade court, even though those nominees are highly unlikely to be confirmed in the current Congress.

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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