Obama court nominee David Hamilton clears Senate hurdle
A Republican effort to stall an Obama appeals court nominee failed Tuesday. A full Senate vote on Judge David Hamilton is set for Wednesday.
In the first major showdown over the future direction of the federal judiciary, Democratic leaders in the Senate scored a victory on Tuesday by defeating a Republican attempt to stall indefinitely President Obama’s nominee to the federal appeals court in Chicago.Skip to next paragraph
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The vote opens the way to Judge Hamilton’s expected easy confirmation via a simple majority vote set to take place on Wednesday.
Leading the opposition was Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who said he had no problem with Hamilton’s character, intelligence, or ability as a jurist. Instead, the Republican said, he opposed the nomination because Hamilton appeared to embrace a “results-oriented, activist philosophy.”
He said some of Hamilton’s rulings suggest “a political agenda that is guided by personal beliefs and not the rule of law.”
Speaking on Hamilton’s behalf, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh lamented “this sad state of our judicial nominating process.”
“I know first hand [Hamilton] is a highly capable lawyer who understands the limited role of the federal judiciary,” Senator Bayh said.
Obama's first pick to the federal bench
Hamilton, currently the chief judge at the US District Court in Indianapolis, was Mr. Obama’s first announced appointment to the federal bench in March. At the time it was seen as a compromise nomination and quickly won the support of the senior senator from Indiana and the most senior Republican in the Senate, Richard Lugar.
The tactic is familiar. Threats of filibusters and stalling were frequent during the both the Clinton and Bush administrations, with the minority party using Senate rules to clog up the confirmation process.
The battle came to a head during the Bush years with a Republican threat to use the so-called “nuclear option” by rewriting Senate rules, thus ending the tradition of requiring 60 votes to conclude debate on a nominee.
Once debate is concluded, confirmation is decided by a simple majority vote of the full Senate.
During the Bush administration, Senate Republicans suggested that it was unconstitutional for Democrats to block Bush appointees in this way. Now it is Republicans using the tactic, with Democrats complaining.
“Judge Hamilton is a pawn in partisan political warfare – that is the long and short of it,” said Sen. Arlen Specter (D) of Pennsylvania. Senator Specter noted that during the Bush years “this chamber was almost torn apart with the ferocity and intensity of the partisanship.”