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Reuters: Srinivasan or Garland Likely to Be Obama's SCOTUS Pick

Reuters' Julia Edwards reports that President Barack Obama is likely to pick one of two judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. His selection has come down to Judge Sri Srinivasan, who, if confirmed, would be the first Asian American to serve on the nation's highest court, or Judge Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit.

The announcement is expected as soon as tomorrow.

Senate Republicans have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings on any nominee the president names to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

One Word Change and Last-Minute Lawyering Saved Historic Climate Deal

The historic climate change deal by 196 governments to cut greenhouse gas emissions almost wasn't because of one misplaced word, Politico's Andrew Restuccia reports.

On Saturday, lawyers for President Barack Obama's administration found that the text of the agreement had been changed from saying that wealthier countries "should" set economy-wide targets for cutting greenhouse gases to "shall" set such targets. As Restuccia notes, "in the lingo of U.N. climate agreements, 'shall' implies legal obligation and 'should' does not." If the draft stayed with the "shall" obligaton, the accord would have had to go to the Republican-controlled Senate for approval--and probable, inevitable defeat. The concern was that reopening the text would swamp the entire effort, Restuccia reports, but the French hosts of the climate-change summit agreed to change the wording amid a package of technical revisions.

Republican-Controlled Senate Confirming Judges At Slowest Rate in 60 Years

The GOP-controlled Senate is confirming federal judges at the slowest rate in 60 years, The Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery reports. The second-slowest year was in 1953 when the Senate only confirmed a total of nine judges. The Alliance for Justice, a left-leaning group, released a report last week presenting that analysis.

Only six of President Barack Obama's judicial nominations have been voted on by senators in 2015, while 29 of President George W. Bush's nominations were confirmed by this point of his seventh year in office, Bendery reports.

GOP Blocking Dozens of Obama's Court Picks

The legacy that President Barack Obama could leave on the federal judiciary could be diminished because the Republican party is blocking dozens of his court picks, Politico's Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim report: "Democrats believe the GOP is creating an unprecedented expansion of the Thurmond Rule, which holds that the Senate shuts off the confirmation valve of lifetime judicial appointments in July of an election year."

The GOP-controlled Senate is on track this year to confirm the fewest federal judges since 1969, and more than two dozen federal courts have declared emergencies because of excessive caseloads caused by vacancies. Nominations for judges for the home states of Republican senators, however, are moving on the Senate floor.

McConnell: Obama's Circuit Court Nominees Won't Be Confirmed

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the President Obama's nominees to serve on the circuit courts of appeal won't be confirmed anymore, The Huffington Post's Jen Bendery reports. McConnell said on a conservative radio show that "'so far, the only judges we’ve confirmed have been federal district judges that have been signed off on by Republican senators,” and he expects that to be the case through 2016.

However, Luis Felipe Restrepo, a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, has had a hearing scheduled before the Judiciary Committee, and he has the support of Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. Kara Stoll, a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, also has been voted out of the Judiciary Committee.

Senate Republicans Slow to Act on Judicial Nominees

Senate Republicans, which have been in charge of the legislative chamber since the start of the year, have not confirmed any of President Obama's 16 pending judicial nominees, Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery reports. U.S. Attorney General nominees Loretta Lynch also has been waiting for a confirmation vote.

Eight of those nominees are for courts facing "judicial emergencies" because the number of cases per judge on those courts is more than 600 or has stayed between 430 and 600 for more than 18 months, Bendery reports.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Bendery the nominees are not moving because Democrats moved to confirm 11 judicial nominees in the lame-duck session at the end of 2014, instead of holding them over and letting new members of Congress review them.

Obama's Judicial Legacy Secured

President Barack Obama has now appointed many more federal judges than his predecessors had by this point in their time in the Oval Office; this will define his presidency long after he is out of office, The Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery reports: "He'll wrap up his sixth year in office with a grand total of 305 district court and circuit court confirmations -- a tally that puts him well beyond where his predecessors were by this point in their presidencies. ... In total, [President George W.] Bush confirmed 256 district and circuit court nominees after six years in office, Clinton confirmed 302, and President Ronald Reagan confirmed 295."

The higher rate of confirmation of Obama judicial appointees in the Senate is probably because the Democratic-controlled Senate "changed the rules last year to require a simple majority, or 51 votes, instead of 60 votes to advance most judicial nominees," Bendery further reports.

FOIA Reform Bill Passes After Senator Drops Hold

After U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller dropped a hold on a bill to reform the Freedom of Information Act, the Senate passed a bill that would create a presumption of openness among government agencies, Politico's Burgess Everett reports. The House passed a similar bill earlier this year. The question is if the House finds time to consider the Senate bill during the current lame-duck session.

Supreme Court Will Rule on Cases About Federal Power

The U.S. Supreme Court has 25 pending cases to decide before recessing for the summer, including a case on the president's power to appoint officials during Congressional pro forma recesses, The New American's Joe Wolverton II reports. The D.C. Circuit held that recess appointments violate the constitutional requirement that officials be appointed with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate, but Attorney General Eric Holder argues that the Senate was unavailable to receive communications from the president when engaged in pro forma sessions in which no real action was being taken by senators. Wolverton, writing from a conservative point of view, argues that the Founding Father Alexander Hamilton thought the Constitution required that cooperation of the Senate and that recess appointments were only meant to be temporary.

US Should Ratify UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The U.S. Senate has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including a vote in December 2012 that failed by five votes, The Interdependent reports. The convention was modeled after the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. The Senate likely will consider the convention again this year, The Interdependent further reports.

"Both U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and Secretary [of State John] Kerry have argued that the treaty’s benefits occur not through changing any U.S. laws or even spending U.S. resources, but rather by encouraging other countries to follow U.S. leadership in terms of the ADA—legislation that is widely recognized as among the world’s highest standards for protecting the rights of the disabled," The Interdependent also notes.


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