Obama To Challenge GOP With 3 Federal Appeals Court Picks

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/188535860/188568057" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

President Obama on Tuesday will name three new judges at once to the federal appeals bench in the District of Columbia, which is sometimes called the little Supreme Court. The nominations are expected to test a logjam that has held up Obama appointees in the Senate.


President Obama will nominate three new judges this morning to the powerful Federal Appeals Court in Washington D.C. The announcement is expected to come in the White House Rose Garden, and as NPR's Scott Horsley reports, there could be a few thorns.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: On their face, none of the nominees is particularly controversial. Patricia Millett is a veteran appellate lawyer who worked in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Cornelia Pillard is a law professor at Georgetown, and Robert Wilkins is federal district judge who was confirmed unanimously in 2010. Millett and Pillard have both argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. All three nominees, like President Obama, graduated from Harvard Law School.

It's not easy, though, for anyone to win confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, second only to the Supreme Court in its national influence. By filling three vacancies all at once, Obama could shift that court's relatively conservative political balance. Of the 14 full-time and senior judges on the court now, nine were appointed by Republican presidents, only five by Democrats.

With today's high-profile announcement, Obama is effectively challenging Senate Republicans to confirm his picks or risk a showdown over the Senate's longstanding filibuster rules. A group of Senate Republicans, led by Iowa's Chuck Grassley, wants to simply eliminate the vacancies in Washington and shift two of the openings to courts with heavier caseloads elsewhere around the country.

Grassley said last night: It's hard to imagine any reason for three more judges in Washington, no matter who nominates them. The White House countered, though, all three vacancies were occupied with Republican support during the Bush administration. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from