In a move that is sure to not make the White House happy, Senate Republicans have filibustered the confirmation of Caitlin Halligan as President Obama's nominee for a U.S. Circuit Court judge for Washington, D.C.
The vote was almost exactly down party lines, 54-45-1, falling short of the 60 votes needed for her nomination to proceed. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, voted present and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, voted with the Democrats.
One Senator declared that the filibuster "violates" the so-called Gang of 14 agreement - the bipartisan group of senators who agree to not filibuster any nominees who did not present "extraordinary circumstances."
"The approach taken by Senate Republicans will have lasting consequences beyond this one nomination," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned, "It seems to me that a vote against this nominee is a vote that declares the gang of 14 agreement null and void."
"If Republicans are going to suddenly junk that six-year armistice, it could risk throwing the Senate into chaos on judicial nominees. Senate Republicans seem to want to declare open season for filibusters of judges again," Schumer added.
Republicans were against Halligan's confirmation because they say she has a liberal activist approach to the law.
"The role of a judge in our system, in other words, is to determine what the law says, not what they or anybody else want it to say," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said today, "yet looking over Ms. Halligan's record it's pretty clear she doesn't share that view. In her view the courts aren't so much a forum for the even-handed application itself law or as a place where a judge can work out his or her own idea of what society should look like."
Republicans argue also that the D.C. Appeals Court is the last stop for cases involving federal statutes and regulations as well as nominations of those judges to the Supreme Court so nominations to the court deserve special scrutiny.
"So there's a lot at stake with any nominee appointed to the circuit court, D.C. circuit," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said today. "Ms. Halligan has an activist record."
Republicans point to her interpretation of the 2nd Amendment on guns to show how "activists of the far left try to use the courts to effect social policy changes." Republicans were also troubled by Halligan's view on the detention of enemy combatants.
"I am very disappointed Halligan was not approved," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said today after the vote. "I just think we have a different outlook on the D.C. circuit court. [Republicans] want all Republicans there, and that's not fair."
Halligan, 44, is he general counsel in the New York District Attorney's office and is a former New York State solicitor general.