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Bench Memos

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On Confirmation of D.C. Circuit Nominee Pillard



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Some things are most fittingly done in the dark of night. Not long after midnight, the Senate, by a 51-44 vote, confirmed President Obama’s nomination of hard-left law professor Cornelia Pillard to the D.C. Circuit. The confirmation, which was foreordained by Senate Democrats’ abolition of the filibuster, is bad news for the D.C. Circuit and for the country. But allow me to discern a silver lining or two.

For starters, three Senate Democrats—Pryor (Arkansas), Manchin (West Virginia), and Donnelly (Indiana)—voted against the Pillard nomination, and not a single Republican voted for it. (Four Republicans evidently weren’t present to vote, or the total against presumably would have been 48.)

What this vote means is that Republicans ought to continue to use Pillard and her terrible record (pregnancy as “conscription into maternity,” extremism against religious liberty, and much, much more) in making the broader case against what Obama is doing to the courts and to the country. The fact that three reputedly moderate Democrats voted against the Pillard nomination disables Democrats from effectively defending Pillard’s extremism.

Senator Pryor, who is running very scared, also can’t be permitted to hide behind his vote against Pillard. After all, he supported the filibuster abolition that made her confirmation possible—and that was designed to do exactly that. [11:30 a.m.: Oops. The preceding passage, now struck through, is mistaken: Pryor voted against the filibuster abolition. My apologies for relying on my memory.]

So, per my point 4 here, the Pillard record and vote give Republicans more ammunition to help turn 2014 into another 1994.

Any ambitions that Pillard might have had to use the D.C. Circuit as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court have also been dealt a severe blow.



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