WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Monday denied President Barack Obama his third nominee in as many weeks to the nation's most powerful appeals court and insisted they would not back down, inflaming a bitter debate over a president's right to shape the judiciary.
By a vote of 53-38, the Senate failed to break a filibuster of a federal judge, Robert Wilkins, who was nominated to fill one of three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, falling short of the 60 votes needed.
Unlike previous fights over judicial nominees, this one is not driven by ideology or divisive social issues like abortion. Republicans have raised few objections to any of the candidates' qualifications or political leanings.
Rather, Republicans are trying to prevent Obama from filling any slots on the court, fearing that he will alter its conservative tilt. Democrats accused Republicans of exercising a nakedly political double standard for confirming presidential nominees.
"Appointing judges to fill vacant judicial seats is not court-packing," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "It's a president's right as well as his duty."