President Obama today nominated three liberals to fill longstanding judicial vacancies on the important Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Will the Senate rubber-stamp the president's nominees—even though the court's fine as it is, with the eight judges currently serving enjoying the lightest caseload in the country? In 2006, when the Senate refused to consider the nomination of Peter Keisler to that court, Senator Ted Kennedy stressed that “we should consider these caseload declines carefully before we fill the current vacancy. American taxpayers deserve no less.” Since then, the court has only added more judges and heard fewer cases.
Or could the House weigh in? Today Congressman Tom Cotton introduced the Stop Court Packing Act, legislation that would reduce the number of judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from eleven to eight.
Here's part of Cotton's statement
“The Stop Court Packing Act would eliminate three needless judgeships from the D.C. Circuit, saving millions of taxpayer dollars. This court has the lightest caseload of any federal appellate court in the country, and its docket is trending downward. Congress recognized these facts when it shrunk the court from twelve to eleven judges in 2008. Moreover, the D.C. Circuit hasn’t had eleven judges since 1999, yet it has managed its shrinking caseload. The court currently has eight active judges—evenly split between judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents—and six senior judges who participate regularly in cases. In the private sector, this wouldn’t even be a close call: these jobs are no longer needed, and they shouldn’t be filled."
The fact is that President Obama's nominations are simply a political power play. The president wants to pack the D.C. Circuit with judges that he trusts to rubber stamp his administration's massive regulatory agenda. The court's current judges have approved the vast majority of his regulatory efforts, and have struck down only his regulators' most egregious examples of overreach—but that is evidently not enough. President Obama demands that the D.C. Circuit vote in his administration's favor all the time, not just almost all the time.