The decision by Senate Democrats to eliminate filibusters for most judicial nominations only marginally enhanced President Obama's power to reshape the judiciary, reports the New York Times, because Republican senators can still veto his nominees to most currently vacant appeals court seats. The new Senate rule clears the way for eight appeals court nominees who have already had confirmation hearings to win approval with simple majority votes. But it left unchanged the Senate's “blue slip” custom, which allows senators to block nominees to judgeships associated with their states.
Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel, called the blue slip rule “a silent, unaccountable veto.” Twelve more appeals court seats are either vacant or will be by the end of 2014. All but one are in states with at least one Republican senator. As a result, Obama still lacks unrestricted power to swiftly appoint a flurry of more clearly left-of-center judges than he has done to date, despite the fears of conservatives and the hopes of liberals, experts said.