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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has its newest justice. Patricia Millett was confirmed by the Senate this morning on a bipartisan vote of 56-38. The vote was made possible as a result of the Senate’s long-overdue decision to alter its rules so that Senators can no longer filibuster judicial nominees (except to the Supreme Court) and other presidential nominees to lead various agencies.

The rule change should lead to a similar vote — perhaps as early as later today — on the long-stalled nomination of Congressman Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

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mandelaIt’s a dreary day in the state capital (and, presumably, throughout most of the Old North State), so here are a few stories to help inspire you to fight back against the darkness:

In addition to lots of information about the rapidly improving health of the Affordable Care Act, the good people at the Kaiser Family Foundation have a nice tribute to the late, great Nelson Mandela today on the front page of the organization’s website that explains the interesting connections between the Foundation and Mandela.

Also, in case you missed it, Think Progress ran a story last week that listed the “Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About” – including his strong opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq and his belief that freedom from poverty ought to be a fundamental human right.

Meanwhile, there will be a North Carolina tribute to Mandela this coming Saturday at First Baptist Church in Raleigh. Click here for more information.

And speaking of fighting back, Read More

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In case you missed it, the Charlotte Observer explained yesterday why it’s time, at long last, to “go nuclear” on the filibuster in the U.S. Senate:

“[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid told reporters Tuesday that he was once again considering rules reform – which is shorthand for doing away with filibusters on judicial and executive nominations by allowing a simple majority vote for approvals. A senior aide made that “nuclear option” sound even more likely in an interview with the Washington Post, saying that it’s hard to envision Reid not changing the rules.

He should. The filibuster, once a useful tool designed to give the minority party more influence in confirmations and legislation, is now a tactic overused by both parties to strip the president of the appointment powers the Constitution has given him.

Well over 100 of Obama’s executive and judicial nominees – including U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte, who was nominated to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency – have seen their nominations stalled because the Senate requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. That means just 40 senators can stop nominees from getting the consideration and yes-or-no vote they deserve….”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed a “cloture” motion on the filibuster that’s been blocking the nomination of Cornelia “Nina” Pillard to serve on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This means that the Senate should vote around 5:30 this afternoon.

Unfortunately, conservatives in the Senate continue to adhere to their trasparently dishonest public argument that “the court doesn’t have enough cases to justify filling vacant seats” — an argument that continues to provoke almost universal disdain from a long list of mainstream experts and analysts.

The following, for instance, is from Richard Painter — a corproate law professor who served in the George W. Bush White House — writing for the American Constitution Society: Read More

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Mel WattAt long last, we now know the official conservative litmus test for responding to nominations and other official proposals submitted to congress: “if the President is for something, we’re against it.”

It’s really as simple as that. And heaven help any nominees who happen to be women and/or people of color.

If the true nature of the test wasn’t already long-apparent in the right’s transparently hypocritical opposition to the federal version of Romney/Heritage Care (i.e. the Affordable Care Act), the final, once-and-for-all confirmation came yesterday when Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the nomination of Congressman Mel Watt to serve as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and then followed it up moments later with an equally absurd filibuster of the President’s nomination of a moderate, corporate lawyer named Patricia Millett to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

There was literally no good reason to oppose these nominations Read More