A Republican senator is ready to remove one of the roadblocks that dogged this year's federal judicial nomination process.
One of the most vocal opponents of judicial opponents this year, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), won't restart his categorical "No" vote policy on all judicial nominees that started in January, when President Barack Obama made four controversial recess appointments, Lee spokesman Brian Phillips said this week.
Lee's stand against the recess appointments, which he says were unprecedented and happened when the Senate was in session, even led to an awkward vote where Lee sided against a nomination he supported: Robert Shelby, a noncontroversial nominee for district judge in Lee’s home state of Utah.
"I had to think of something in order to keep it in the news, because it's important people continue to talk about it, " Lee said during a speech to the Federalist Society this month. "I said at the outset that until such time as my party responds or I get some assurance from the president that this won't happen again, I’m going to continue to vote no. "
But now Lee says the Republicans have adequately responded by invoking a loosely defined Senate tradition of backing off from filling circuit court seats in the waning months of a president's term, dubbed the "Thurmond Rule." That rule was invoked in July.
"That issue is closed," spokesman Brian Phillips said. However, should the president again make recess appointments, Lee could again institute his policy, Phillips said.
The legal battle over the appointments rages on, however.
Congressional Republicans have joined in a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in January, a legal fight focused on the constitutional limits of presidential appointment power.
Obama angered Senate Republicans with his recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board during a two-day break between "pro forma" sessions that even some Constitutional lawyers concluded didn't qualify as an actual recess.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and 41 other Republican senators filed an amicus brief in the case of Noel Canning, a company challenging whether the appointments were unconstitutional.