The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved Patricia Millett's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, despite continued Republican opposition to filling any vacant judgeship on the court.
The 10-8 vote was along party lines, with all Republican senators on the committee voting against Millett. Several Republicans voiced objection, saying the court does not need any more judges. Millett's nomination now awaits a vote in the full Senate, where Republicans appear poised to block it.
Critics of the nomination again underscored that their votes had nothing to do with the qualifications of Millett, an Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner who has argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, they say the court's workload does not justify additional judges.
"I have no objection to her, personally," Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said before the vote. "I don't know enough about her but I think she’s probably well-qualified."
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) broadened his comments beyond Millett to include two other D.C. Circuit nominees, former Justice Department lawyer and current Georgetown University Law Center professor Cornelia Pillard and U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins.
Sessions pointed to the estimated $3 million it would cost to have three more judges that weren't needed. "We just can't move these three judges forward because we would be violating our commitment to the American people," Sessions said.
Republicans have voiced opposition to the nominees ever since Obama struck a more aggressive tone in June with a Rose Garden announcement of the three nominees to the D.C. Circuit.
The Senate earlier this year confirmed a top Justice Department lawyer, Sri Srinivasan, to the D.C. Circuit bench. Srinivasan formerly was an appellate partner at O'Melveny & Myers in Washington.