Grassley leads Republican effort to block Obama nominee

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — Senate Republicans Tuesday blocked the President’s second nominee in two weeks to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit in continuing the persistent and partisan battle over presidential nominations.

Republicans scuttled the nomination of Georgetown Law School professor Nina Pillard on a largely party line vote just as they blocked Patricia Millett 12 days ago. GOP senators argued the D.C. Circuit has enough judges to handle its caseload and President Obama should nominate judges for other courts that need additional help.

Republicans also accused the President of trying to pack the D.C. court — which is often considered second in importance to the Supreme Court – so he could win policy disputes in the courthouse that he couldn’t win in Congress.

“The only way the President can successfully bypass Congress is if he stacks the court with ideological allies who will rubberstamp his Executive Orders,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a Senate floor speech.

Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid repeatedly criticized Republicans for blocking a highly qualified woman to serve on the influential court, which currently has three vacancies on the 11 seat bench.

“Senate Republicans seem poised to block confirmation of this eminently qualified woman for a blatantly political reason: to deny the President his constitutional right to appoint judges,” Reid said.

Democrats argued Republicans are blocking the president’s nominees because they want to maintain conservative influence on the court by preserving the four-four split on the D.C. bench between appointees of Democratic presidents and appointees of Republican presidents.

The President has also named U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins to a seat on the D.C. Circuit but Republicans have vowed to block his confirmation too.

Many frustrated Democrats are urging Reid to change Senate rules — over the objections of Republicans – to ban filibusters of the presidential nominees. Republicans warn such a move would destroy any cooperation between the parties and grind Senate action to a standstill.

Reid has threatened many times to carry out this so-called “nuclear option” but so far has held back as many veteran senators have implored him to do.