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Republicans block pick to key court

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Monday blocked the nomination of Robert L. Wilkins, a District Court judge in Washington, from filling one of three vacancies on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Wilkins is the third straight nominee to the powerful court that Republicans have stopped from being seated.

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The Senate voted, 53 to 38, in favor of ending Republican-led delays, falling short of the 60 votes required to advance Wilkins’s nomination. Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine voted with Democrats to end debate.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is often referred to as the second most powerful court in the country, after the Supreme Court. Informally known as the D.C. circuit, the court is influential because of its case-load — it rules on administration orders and regulations — and because some of its judges become Supreme Court justices. The D.C. circuit currently has eight active judges evenly divided between Democratic and Republican nominees.

Blocking Wilkins’ nomination will likely intensify partisan tensions in the Senate.

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