Black leaders say Republican senators are engaging in "petty" politics.
Pictured, from left, Robert Wilkins, Cornelia Pillard, President Obama and Patricia Millet. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senate Republicans on Monday blocked the nomination of Judge Robert Wilkins to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is considered to be the second most powerful court in the nation. They also recently prevented the nomination of North Carolina Rep. Mel Watt to head the Federal Finance Housing Agency from moving forward, as well as the nominations of Patricia Millett and Cornelia Pillard for the D.C. Circuit Court.
Leaders from the nation's top civil rights groups expressed their anger about GOP efforts to obstruct President Obama's nominees, which they say are being driven by politics and ideology.
"Last night marked the fourth time in a row that a highly qualified nominee was filibustered, not because he was not fit for office but because the most extreme elements of our nation have taken control of the Senate confirmations process," Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday morning.
The filibuster is a procedure that allows unlimited debate and requires at least 60 votes to end. The Senate on Monday had just 53 votes to end the filibuster of Wilkins, a District Court judge in Washington, by a voice vote.
Henderson added that it "is not lost on us that these filibusters have targeted two minorities and two women," which he said was "stunningly hypocritical" of lawmakers who have spoken about the importance of qualifications and diversity and then fail to consider the nominees' merits.
National Urban League president Marc Morial called the blockades an "outrage," a "violation of public trust" and an "abuse" of the filibuster. Morial also said it is "shocking" that Watt is the first sitting member of Congress in more than 100 years to have his nomination be denied an up or down vote on the Senate floor.
Hilary Shelton, who directs the NAACP's Washington bureau, said that all of the nominees would bring "much-needed diversity" to their respective positions.
"They would work to develop policies and make judgments that would bring our nation closer to fulfilling the promise of our Constitution," Shelton said. "Yet they're being denied a vote in the full Senate, not because of their qualifications but because of petty obstructionists."
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