Senate Republicans Block Obama Judge Pick Caitlin Halligan

Arguing that she is too activist for a position on the federal circuit court, Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked President Obama's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals seat previously held by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.

The vote Tuesday, 54-45, was far short of the 60 votes needed under Senate rules.

Democrats called Caitlin Halligan, currently general counsel in the New York City district attorney's office, well qualified for the D.C. Court of Appeals.

But Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was troubled by Halligan's record arguing against trying enemy combatants in military tribunals as well as her support for "nuisance" lawsuits like suing gun manufacturers for crimes committed with weapons.

He added that as solicitor general for former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Halligan also took "activists positions" like supporting NOW's claim that pro-life groups had engaged in extortion; the use of race in college and law school admissions is constitutional; illegal immigrants should be awarded back pay in labor disputes in the United States; and the Clean Air Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases.

These are just some of my concerns regarding the nominee's judicial philosophy and her approach to interpreting the Constitution," Grassley said before the vote. "Based on her record, I simply do not believe she will be able to put aside her long record of liberal advocacy and be a fair and impartial jurist."

Republicans also noted that the vote was no different than the treatment former President George W. Bush's nominees received.

President Obama said he was "deeply disappointed" with the vote.

"Today, her nomination fell victim to the Republican pattern of obstructionism that puts party ahead of country. Today's vote dramatically lowers the bar used to justify a filibuster, which had required 'extraordinary circumstances,'" Obama said.

The District of Columbia circuit currently has five judges nominated by Republicans and three nominated by Democrats, with three vacancies. Obama said Republicans are blocking 20 
"highly qualified judicial nominees" that he has nominated to fill vacancies deemed "judicial emergencies" by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

He was joined in his anger by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who noted that the agreement by the "Gang of 14" to only filibuster in extraordinary circumstance may now be 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 said.