Senate Democrats are moving to force a vote on the judicial nomination of John McConnell Jr., a Rhode Island trial lawyer who has drawn heat from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for his work on tobacco and lead-paint litigation.
The move sets up a potential filibuster fight. With 53 members, the Democratic caucus is seven votes short of what it would need to break a filibuster, and some Republicans have named McConnell as one of the Obama judicial nominees they most oppose.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed a so-called “cloture petition” late on Monday that proposes ending debate on McConnell’s nomination. Under Senate rules, a vote to end debate will likely come on Wednesday. That requires 60 votes.
Reid complained that he had been unable to get senators to agree on a time to vote on whether to confirm McConnell, especially given that McConnell is a nominee for federal district court and not the higher-profile appellate bench. “I hope that we’re not in a situation where we have to file cloture on district court judges. That really is a little much,” Reid said on the Senate floor.
McConnell is a partner at Motley Rice, a South Carolina-based plaintiffs’ firm.
Among those expected to speak against McConnell is Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former state attorney general. A spokesman for Cornyn said the senator’s criticism would emphasize McConnell’s use of contingency-fee arrangements with state attorneys general, including in tobacco litigation, and McConnell’s role in a document dispute between Motley Rice and Jones Day during lead-paint litigation.