Updated 6:58 p.m. ET, 11/18/2013
Washington (CNN) - For the third time in three weeks, Senate Republicans blocked a nominee of President Obama's to be a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, a powerful court often considered second in influence to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On a vote of 53 to 38, Democratic supporters fell short of the 60 votes they needed to break a filibuster of nominee Robert Wilkins, who is currently a U.S. District Court judge in Washington.
In rejecting Wilkins, Republicans reiterated their opposition to adding a judge to a court they believe already has more judges than it needs to meet its workload. In addition, they said they didn't want to disrupt the balance on the bench, which is currently evenly divided between judges appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents.
GOP senators even accused the President of trying to pack the court, which is often the final arbiter of key constitutional questions and other issues related to presidential powers.
"It's clear they are trying to pack the court so they can have their judges pass legislation they can never get through the Congress," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said recently. "I don't think Republicans are going to roll over on this."
Democrats were already frustrated the two other nominees - Patricia Millet and Nina Pillard - were blocked. Sen. Dick Durbin, the second ranking Senate Democrat, called the filibuster of Wilkins "disgraceful."
"The Senate does not have the right to unilaterally determine that certain judicial seats and posts should never be filled by certain presidents. That's exactly what's happening today in the United States Senate," Durbin said. "There's no question Judge Wilkins has the experience, qualifications, and integrity to be an outstanding circuit court judge."
In a statement Monday, President Obama said he was "deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans have once again refused to do their job and give well-qualified nominees to the federal bench the yes-or-no votes they deserve."
The nominees received the highest possible rating from the nonpartisan American Bar Association and have bipartisan support, Obama said. "This obstruction is completely unprecedented. Four of my predecessor's six nominees to the D.C. Circuit were confirmed. Four of my five nominees to this court have been obstructed."
With three vacancies on the 11-seat bench, Durbin called Republican obstruction of the nominees "exhibit A in the abuse of the filibuster."
Some Democrats want to change Senate rules over the objection of Republicans to prevent filibusters of the President's appointees. To this point Democratic leaders have refused to take that dramatic step, which is known as the "nuclear option" because it would destroy cooperation between the parties. But the idea has gained steam in recent weeks even among some veteran Democratic senators who have been reluctant to change the rules.