WASHINGTON — Opening a summer showdown with Congress, a combative President Obama nominated three judges to a powerful appellate court Tuesday and challenged Republicans to stop the “political obstruction” holding up his nominees.
“What I’m doing today is my job,” Obama said in the face of Republican attempts to eliminate the very judicial vacancies he is trying to fill. “I need the Senate to do its job.”
Obama’s nominations were another ingredient in a White House effort to regain the political momentum after weeks of controversies, disputes over legislation, and a budget stalemate that shows no sign of ending.
Obama used a Rose Garden ceremony to introduce his candidates to fill the three openings on the powerful US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, grooming grounds for Supreme Court justices. The nominees include two lawyers experienced in appellate cases, Patricia Millett and Cornelia “Nina” Pillard, and US District Judge Robert Wilkins, who is a lower court judge in the building where the D.C. circuit court meets.
“There’s no reason, aside from politics, for Republicans to block these individuals from getting an up-or-down vote,” Obama argued.
The court is a long-running battleground between the White House and Senate that predates this president. Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah pointed out that in 2006, Democratic senators objected to President George W. Bush’s pick amid questions about whether the seat needed to be filled.
“Today’s nominations are nothing more than a political ploy,” said Lee, a member of the Judiciary Committee with the task of holding judicial confirmation hearings.
Obama has other nomination battles on his hands this summer — his selection of Tom Perez as labor secretary and Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency face GOP resistance. And Republicans have been hammering Obama over last year’s attack in Libya that killed four Americans, political targeting at the IRS, and tracking of journalists who reported leaks. And there’s been no movement in the partisan stalemate to replace $85 billion in government-wide spending cuts.
Republicans have opposed Obama’s proposals for gun control, a minimum wage increase, universal prekindergarten, and more federal money for highways and bridge repair. Obama has threatened to veto GOP legislation on spending, student loans, cybersecurity, and overtime compensation.