and Patricia Ann Millett.
This is the court that Republicans have deemed too inconsequential to deserve a full complement of 11 judges, speciously arguing that the court just isn't busy enough that the three current vacancies there need to be filled.
Republicans appear to be united behind Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) legislation to reduce the number of active judges on the D.C. Circuit court from 11 to eight. He proposes eliminating one seat, transferring one to the Second Circuit and transferring another to the 11th Circuit. (During the Bush administration, Grassley led a successful effort to reduce the size of the D.C. Circuit court from 12 to 11.)The tentative truce the Senate reached on executive nominees, nearly broken on the razor-thin confirmation of an ATF director, is not going to extend to judicial nominees. Republicans are obviously, intentionally, playing with fire. They're daring Harry Reid and Democrats to pull the filibuster plug on judicial nominees and go nuclear, and they're doing it with transparently bullshit arguments. They're likely doing it because they suspect, rightly, that Reid does not have 50 other votes willing to scrap the filibuster for judges.
“It’s way overstaffed,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), another Judiciary Committee member, told TPM on Thursday. “It does not need these judges, and we don’t have the money.”
At the same time, President Obama is getting increasingly aggressive with nominations. In addition to the mass nomination of the three D.C. Circuit judges, in the past week he's announced three nominations to the Ninth and Tenth Circuit courts of appeals. He's forwarded six to various district court judgeships. And he's thrown in a boatload of executive branch nominations for good measure.
There are a couple of possible things at work here, which aren't mutually exclusive. Obama is catching up on a tremendous backlog of vacancies. This White House has really lagged in making nominations, in part because of Republican obstruction. But it's also a move to shine a bright light on Republican refusal to allow the courts to function, just like they're shutting down the other two branches.
This also puts a lot of pressure on Democratic senators. They do have the power in their hands to help clear the backlog, if they'll use it. Their visits home during August recess would be a good time for them to hear directly from progressive constituents about it.