The Leader Board

'Now is the chance for our Democratic colleagues to prove they meant what they said'

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday regarding the need for a fair and prompt process in confirming a new Attorney General:

"The Senate will soon be asked to confirm a new Attorney General.  For the past several months, our Democratic colleagues have pleaded for this very thing. They have spoken at length about the importance of the Justice Department, and the urgent need to install new leadership there as soon as possible.

"They don't want to make the pick.  All they want is someone with 'integrity' and 'experience' who 'respects the rule of law,' and who can 'hit the ground running.'  These are their words.  The Senior Senator from New York has assured us that he and his colleagues will not 'obstruct or impede' such a nominee.  Again, their own words.  This was their plea and their promise.

"It now appears, however, that despite these promises, some of our Democratic colleagues may indeed obstruct and impede.

"Roll Call reported Monday that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee may intentionally delay confirmation of the next nominee, whoever he or she is, in order to extract still more Administration documents in the U.S. Attorneys matter.  It cited one Democratic leadership aide as saying that 'it would not be surprising if Democrats decide to take their time on the nomination as a way to force the administration's hand.' 

"So our Democratic colleagues have repeatedly told us that the central concern in all this was the health and well-being of the Justice Department.  Yet now they say they're willing to hold up the new attorney general in exchange for more documents related to their fishing expedition — which, so far, has been long on fisherman and short on fish.

"Let's remember, Mr. President, that over the last seven months the Senate Judiciary Committee has held no fewer than 13 — thirteen — hearings on the U.S. Attorneys matter.

"The Administration has cooperated extensively in this process.  It has provided more than eight thousand pages of documents, along with dozens of witnesses in both public hearings and private interviews.

"None of these documents, none of these witnesses, none of these hearings have produced evidence of illegality on the part of the Administration in the U.S. Attorney matter.  Despite their best efforts, our Democratic friends have candidly and publicly conceded that they have yet to find — again, in their own words — a 'smoking gun.'

"Which is not to say that these investigations have been a complete waste of time for Senate Democrats.  While the Senate Judiciary Committee was holding hearings, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was hard at work too.

"According to the Washington Post, as the Judiciary Committee's hearings began, the Democrats' campaign committee began to raise money off the matter. 

"Here, in fact, is a copy of one of the DSCC's fundraising solicitations.  It points to the U.S. Attorneys matter, and asks for a donation.

"Well Mr. President, as the adage goes, the proof is in the pudding.  Our Democratic colleagues will help prove their concern for the Justice Department was genuine, and not motivated by partisan politics, by confirming the nominee in a timely manner.

"We know the precedent. Since the Carter Administration, it has taken, on average, about three weeks from nomination to confirmation for a nominee for Attorney General.  Some nominees have taken much less time.  Benjamin Civiletti and Janet Reno, the second Attorney General nominees of Presidents Carter and Clinton, were confirmed in 12 and 13 days, respectively, after their nominations.  Richard Thornburgh, President Reagan's third Attorney General, was confirmed 17 days after he was nominated.

"Now is the chance for our Democratic colleagues to prove they meant what they said.  If they were serious when they cried out for new leadership at the Justice Department, they will follow Senate precedent.  They will carefully weigh the qualifications of the nominee and vote in a timely fashion.

"If, instead, our colleagues intentionally delay the nominee and hold him or her hostage, they'll show the American people that their concern for the Department was insincere, and that they simply didn't mean it when, as the Senior Senator from New York put it, 'This nation needs a new attorney general, and it can't afford to wait.'

"In these times, it is especially important that the Senate act promptly.  We are at war, and as the distinguished Ranking Member has noted, apart from the Defense Department, no department of the executive branch is more important to defending our nation than the Department of Justice.

"Mr. President, we need to act."