Patricia Ann Millett will get her place in the history books Tuesday,* when she becomes the first judge to be confirmed since Senate Democrats invoked the nuclear option to prevent Republicans from blocking judicial nominations.
Millett was nominated to serve on the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit, considered the country’s second most powerful court. On October 31, Republicans blocked her nomination, voting no on the procedural vote required to advance her nomination.
Millett is a D.C. based lawyer who co-heads the Supreme Court practice and national appellate court practice at Akin Gump Strauss. She served as assistant solicitor general in the Clinton and Bush administrations. She has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, New York Democratic Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, and Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.
The blocking of Millett and two other D.C. Circuit Court nominees prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to invoke the nuclear option, lowering the threshold for procedural votes on presidential nominees to a simple majority rather than 60 votes.
Fifty-five Senators voted to proceed to the Millett nomination in October; on Tuesday, that number will be sufficient to confirm her.
The D.C. Circuit Court hears challenges to policies and decisions of federal agencies, meaning it often gets final say over federal regulations. It has also been a stepping stone for those looking to get to the Supreme Court: Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Clarence Thomas all served on the D.C. Circuit Court.
Of the eight full-time judges currently on the court, four were nominated by a Democratic president and four were nominated by a Republican president. Three judgeships are empty. Of the Court’s six senior judges, five were appointed by a Republican president and one was appointed by a Democratic president.
One GOP aide predicted that in a post-nuclear Senate, judges would become “partisan figures,” and there would be “a new focus on their partisan past in considering their confirmation in the years to come.”
“For Republicans’ part, you can expect a full-throated opposition and a very articulate case against an effort to pack courts,” the aide added. “Now that Democrats have guaranteed their ability to do that, Republicans are going to take their arguments to the American people.”
*The vote was originally scheduled for Monday evening. Due to weather, it was postponed until Tuesday.