Senate Republicans blocked another of President Obama's picks for one of the nation's top courts today, the latest skirmish in a nominations battle that has intensified partisan tensions in the chamber. The vote derailed Obama's selection of Georgetown University law professor Cornelia Pillard to fill one of three vacancies on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The roll call was 56-41 in favor of ending procedural delays that have blocked Pillard from winning confirmation—four short of the 60 votes Democrats needed.
The DC circuit court is considered one of the nation's most powerful because it rules on administration orders and because some of its judges ultimately become Supreme Court justices. The eight current judges are divided evenly between Democratic and Republican nominees. Today's vote prompted Democrats to threaten anew to rewrite Senate rules to make it harder for the chamber's minority party to block nominations. Republicans say the DC circuit has a lighter caseload than other districts, and have proposed legislation eliminating one of its vacant judgeships and moving the two others to busier circuits.