Two years ago, President Obama nominated Caitlin Halligan to sit on the federal court of appeals for the District of Columbia. Unfortunately, the Xenia native, former New York solicitor general and current general counsel for the Manhattan district attorney’s office has been the target of a filibuster. On Tuesday, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and all but one of his Republican colleagues blocked a final vote on her nomination.
A spokeswoman for Portman explained to the Columbus Dispatch that Halligan “has demonstrated an activist judicial philosophy over the course of her career.” This is the party talking point, the most often cited concern her role in New York seeking to hold gun manufacturers legally responsible for crimes committed with their products.
Many people may disagree with the argument she advanced. It hardly rates as radical or disqualifying. Anyway, the position didn’t belong to her. She represented her client, the state of New York, its elected attorney general.
Halligan has an impressive, bipartisan array of supporters, including officials who served in the solicitor general’s office in the Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. She received the highest rating from the American Bar Association, no renegade outfit. More, the appeals bench could use the help, with four of 11 seats vacant.
The Portman spokeswoman lamented the Obama White House choosing “to dismiss the will of the Senate.” Halligan already has a majority of the Senate on her side. What she needs are the 60 votes required to end the filibuster.
Those of us in these parts have seen this show before, Deborah Cook waiting two years for Senate action, Democratic senators and their supporters then trading in weak arguments, their partisanship plainly showing. Eventually, Cook won confirmation, and her tenure on the federal appeals court in Cincinnati hardly has proved ruinous. She has performed well in the job.
The safe bet is, Caitlin Halligan would deliver the same — if Rob Portman and his allies would allow a final vote on her nomination.