Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took to the Senate floor Wednesday to condemn her Republican colleagues for blocking Nina Pillard's nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, accusing the Senate GOP of "naked attempts to nullify the results of the last presidential election."
"The powerful interests that work to rig the Supreme Court also want to rig the lower courts," Warren said. "In the next five years, the D.C. Circuit will decide some of the most important cases of our time, including cases that will decide whether Wall Street reform will have real bite or whether it will just be toothless."
She continued, "Republicans may not like Wall Street reform. They may not like Obamacare. But Congress passed those laws. President Obama signed those laws. President Obama ran for reelection on those laws, while his opponent pledged to repeal them -- and his opponent lost by nearly five million votes. It is not up to judges to overturn those laws or their associated regulations just because they don't fit those judges' policy preferences."
On Tuesday, the Senate voted 56-41 on ending delays to Pillard's confirmation, four votes short of the 60 needed by Democrats.
The Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery reported on Republicans' opposition to President Barack Obama's appointments to the D.C. Circuit Court, which currently has three vacancies:
Republicans readily admit their opposition to Pillard isn't about her. In fact, they don't really have a problem with any of Obama's picks for the D.C. Circuit, the second most powerful court in the nation. They just don't want him to fill its three vacancies. Many of them say the court isn't busy enough to warrant filling its empty seats; others make the counterintuitive argument that Obama is "court-packing" by filling routine vacancies. But both of those arguments gloss over the fact that the president, any president, has a constitutional duty to fill empty court seats, and barring extraordinary circumstances, the Senate is supposed to give nominees a vote.
Pillard's filibuster is the latest example of how the Senate isn't holding to that standard anymore. Not only is she the third noncontroversial nominee that Republicans have filibustered in the last two weeks, but she is now the 20th Obama nominee who is either currently being blocked or was blocked and ultimately withdrew from the process. Those blockages cause a logjam that reverberates through the judiciary and the executive branch, as positions have gone unfilled at crisis levels dating back to 2007.
In her floor speech, Warren said the Senate would "have a duty" to implement filibuster rule changes if Republicans continue to block nominations.
"We cannot turn our backs on the constitution," she said. "We cannot abdicate our oath of office. We have a responsibility to protect and defend our democracy, and that includes protecting the neutrality of our courts -- and preserving the Constitutional power of the president to nominate highly qualified people to fill their vacancies."
Warren's colleague, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), has also called for filibuster reform in the face of Republican obstruction.
"That is not a change that I've wanted to see happen," Leahy said Tuesday. "But if Republican senators are going to hold nominees hostage without consideration of a nominee's individual merits, drastic measures may be warranted."