In trying to fill the three vacancies on the 11-member United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit at once, Mr. Obama will be adopting a more aggressive nomination strategy. He will effectively be daring Republicans to find specific ground to filibuster all the nominees.Obama is essentially daring Republicans to push Sen. Chuck Grassley's proposal to strip the DC court of its three vacant seats rather than filling them. The court is currently dominated by conservatives, and has repeatedly ruled against the Obama administration, including high profile cases like Wall Street reform, EPA regulations on air pollution, and Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. While the court is now largely stacked against Obama, Republicans are trying to make the specious argument that Obama's intention—which is a key part of his job—to fill the court's vacant seats is actually an intent to stack the court.
White House officials declined to say who Mr. Obama’s choices will be ahead of an announcement that could come this week, but leading contenders for the spots appear to include Cornelia T. L. Pillard, a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center; David C. Frederick, who often represents consumers and investors at the Supreme Court; and Patricia Ann Millett, a veteran appeals lawyer in Washington. All three are experienced lawyers who would be unlikely to generate controversy individually. [...]
Democrats are preparing to escalate the dispute this summer by scheduling numerous confirmation votes in a short period of time. If, as Democrats expect, Republicans block those nominations, Mr. Obama and his allies hope the public will notice.
With enough public pressure, some Democrats hope that they could change the Senate rules to prohibit filibusters on judicial nominations and in some other areas.
Last week, Reid successfully forced a vote against Mitch McConnell's objections on one nominee to the DC court. Reid's threats to go nuclear on rules reform—to end the filibuster on nominations with just a majority vote by Democrats—seemed to do the trick for at least this nomination, and get McConnell to back down. But the stakes are much higher for McConnell with the next six nominations, and Republicans are unlikely to acquiesce so easily on them.
The stakes are also higher for Reid now. He's got to be ready to finally act on his threats, or lose all credibility.