From Peter Urban with Stephens Media’s Washington Bureau:
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, on Tuesday plunged into a heated dispute between Senate Republicans and the Obama administration over judicial nominations, a move that will inevitably fuel further speculation about his 2014 political ambitions.
Cotton introduced the “Stop Court Packing Act” to eliminate three positions on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on the very day that President Barack Obama nominated three judges to fill the now empty slots.
Standing with the three nominees in the Rose Garden, Obama complained that Senate Republicans, for political reasons, were blocking his nominees to the court. He also challenged Republicans for derisively asserting that he was looking to pack the court.
“For those of you who are familiar with the history of court-packing, that involved Franklin Delano Roosevelt trying to add additional seats to the Supreme Court in order to water down and get more support for his political agenda. We’re not adding seats here. We’re trying to fill seats that are already existing,” Obama said.
Cotton introduced his legislation, without a co-sponsor, saying that reducing the number of judges serving on the court would save taxpayers millions of dollars. He noted that the court has the lightest caseload of any federal appellate court and its docket is shrinking.
“President Obama knows these facts, so his nomination today to the D.C. Circuit are an obvious effort to pack a court that has frustrated his liberal, big-government ambitions. The D.C. Circuit has jurisdiction over regulatory agencies and it has routinely struck down the worst excesses of the Obama administration,” Cotton said.
Janine Parry, a professor of politics at the University of Arkansas, said it would make some sense to read Cotton’s actions as a signal of his intent to challenge U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in the 2014 mid-term elections, as well as a way to burnish his image among conservative Republicans.
“This kind of thing is a way to earn the kind of stripes that guarantee a big investment in him by the Republican Party and its allies,” Parry said.
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