Judge Robert Wilkins has been filibustered by Senate Republicans. In a 53-38 (one voting "present") vote Monday afternoon, the Republicans made good on their threat to refuse to allow any of President Obama's three nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court, the nation's second highest court, to be seated.
Republicans continue with their ridiculous assertion that President Obama is trying to pack this court with his nominees, that the three vacancies he's trying to fill are superfluous and that this critical court can continue to do its job without them. What Republicans are succeeding in doing is further alienating women and minorities: two of the filibustered nominees are women, Wilkins is African-American. Following on the heels of their filibuster of Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) to head up the federal housing agency, Republicans clearly aren't taking that whole "reaching out to the African-American community" thing too seriously.
And yes, this level of obstruction is historic in proportion, and if not broken, likely to get worse. One political scientist, Sheldon Goldman, surveyed the history [pdf] of the filibuster, concluding:
After Obama took office in 2009, the Republican Senate minority not only obstructed nominees they found ideologically extreme, but routinely delayed or blocked all votes.We knew that already, but as for it getting worse, Goldman writes that "more Senate foot dragging happens on nominees to federal judgeships in the second half of four-year presidential terms, just before another presidential election." Meaning Republicans are going to block even more judges as the clock runs down on President Obama's term. If Democrats don't break the filibuster now, the federal judicial crisis is likely to reach unprecedented levels as well.
Minority obstruction and delay has, in fact, reached unprecedented levels under President Obama.
Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Judge Robert Wilkins have all received the highest possible rating from the non-partisan American Bar Association. They have broad bipartisan support, and no one has questioned their merit. Yet Senate Republicans have blocked all three from receiving a yes-or-no vote. This obstruction is completely unprecedented. Four of my predecessor’s six nominees to the D.C. Circuit were confirmed. Four of my five nominees to this court have been obstructed. When it comes to judicial nominations, I am fulfilling my constitutional responsibility, but Congress is not. Instead, Senate Republicans are standing in the way of a fully-functioning judiciary that serves the American people.
The American people and our judicial system deserve better. A majority of the United States Senate supports these three extraordinary nominees, and it is time for simple yes-or-no votes without further obstruction or delay.