Floor Updates

Leahy, Boozman, Grassley, Durbin, Pryor, Feinstein

Executive Session

May 07 2012

05:30 PM

Senator Leahy: (4:31 PM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "For the last four months, the Senate has been forced to slowly work its way through the backlog created by Republican objections issued last year to consensus nominees. The distinguished presiding officer knows the number of nominees that we have voted on unanimously usually in the Judiciary Committee and then they have to wait and wait and wait to get a vote. Now finally, with the consideration today of the long-delayed nomination of Judge Jacqueline Nguyen to fill a long-standing judicial emergency, a vacancy on the overburdened ninth circuit, the Senate will complete the confirmations that it could have, that should have taken place last year. In my 37 years here, it's been my experience with Republican and Democratic administrations, Republican or Democratic control of the Senate such nominees were always disposed of by the end of the year in which they'd gone through the committee. Now, actually five months into the year, today is the first time the national is considering judicial nominations reported by the Judiciary Committee this year, not that they were just reported, they've been on the calendar for months. The nominations considered today are but three of the 22 judicial nominees available for final Senate action. Most are by any measure consensus nominees who could and should be confirmed without further delay under either Republican or Democratic administrations. Actually, if they were confirmed, if I cannily confirmed, that would go a long way toward getting us on track to make real progress to reducing the judicial vacancies that have plagued the federal courts around this country."

Senator Boozman: (4:47 PM)
  • Spoke on the Baker nomination.

Senator Grassley: (4:59 PM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "Today the Senate is expected to confirm three additional judicial nominees. With the confirmation of Judge Nguyen to the ninth circuit, Ms. Baker to the eastern district of Arkansas, Mr. Lee to the northern district of Illinois, we will have confirmed 83 judicial nominees during this Congress. It's somewhat ironic that today, according to press accounts, the White House is holding a reform and strategy session with administration officials and 150 supporters from across the country concerned about the judicial vacancy rate. I wonder if at this strategy session the White House took a look in the mirror when addressing the vacancy rate. While we have a responsibility to advise and consent on those nominations, senators cannot fill vacancies unless people are nominated for those positions. I would note the President has failed to do this in 47 of the 76 remaining vacancies, including 21 of 35 seats designated as judicial emergencies. This was more than 60% of the current vacancies with no nominee. The White House and the Senate majority are fond of their claims that millions of Americans are living in districts with vacancies. Of course, what the other side fails to tell you is that 88 million Americans live in judicial districts where vacancies exist because the President has failed to nominate judges. Most of those seats have been vacant for more than a whole year. Once again, if the White House is serious about judicial vacancies, it holds the key to nominating and filling those vacancies. It has failed in too many instances to use that key. Furthermore, according to press accounts the White House accused Republicans of subjecting consensus nominees to unprecedented delays and filibusters. This is a statement without factual basis and ignores the record of judicial nominations. I note that after today's confirmation, there are 12 nominees on the executive counter that might fall into the category of consensus nominees. Seven nominees on the calendar had significant opposition in the committee and clearly are not consensus nominees the substantial majority of those 12 nominees were reported out of committee fewer than ten legislative days ago. Not only is there no filibuster against any of the consensus nominees, but I am not sure how there can be any accusation then of delay and particularly partisan delay."

Senator Durbin: (5:05 PM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "First, at this point in President George W. Bush's first term, the Democratic Senate had approved 30 more judges than have been approved under the current situation with this divided Senate. Secondly, it would take 60 nominations to be filled by the end of the year, judicial nominations, for President Obama to have received the same treatment as President George W. Bush in his first term. 60. We could get a lot of that done today. Right here are 22 nominations for the judiciary that have cleared the committee. If the Senator from Iowa would like to come to the floor and join me, we can make a joint unanimous consent request to bring all 22 up immediately. Every one of them, all of whom have cleared the committee. And those senators who want to vote against those nominees do so, vote no. But unfortunately as we can see from this calendar, the names of the nominees languish on this calendar for months. Literally for months. And many times pass with a voice vote or unanimous vote. It really does not speak well of this process that we have reached this point, this slowdown. What many Republicans are waiting for is the so-called Thurman rule. It's not a rule written in the book but it refers to Senator Strom Thurman of South Carolina who kind of announced at one point of his career we'll stop considering judges at a certain point in an election year. I have been in the Senate for so many years I have heard many different explanations about what the Thurman rule means. I'm not sure anyone knows. All we know is in a political campaign year, politics rules. In this situation, many Republicans are holding up perfectly fine nominees approved by Democrats and Republicans in committee for no other reason but the hope that they can win back the White House in November and fill the nominees with their favorites. I don't think that's fair to the nominees who have gone through the process, many of whom have cleared a bipartisan vote, and should be voted on in a timely fashion."
  • Spoke on the Lee and Tharp nominations.
    • SUMMARY "Mr. Lee and Mr. Tharp were both nominated on November 10, 2011, six months ago. They appeared together at a hearing before the Judiciary Committee in January. They were both reported out of committee in February in a bipartisan voice vote. Now, there was an agreement reached between Senator McConnell and Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, about the nominees that we brought for a vote. I was surprised when it was announced in March that the Lee and Tharp nominations, which had been together all through the process, were separated. The deal or arrangement called for John Lee to be scheduled for a confirmation vote by May 7, but at the insistence of the Republican leadership, Senator McConnell, the deal did not include all the nominees on the Senate calendar and it did not schedule a vote for Mr. Jay Tharp, Senator Kirk's nominee. I believe that they should be confirmed together, just as they were nominated together and went through the committee together. As soon as I heard about this so-called arrangement, I went to first Senator Kyl and then to Senator McConnell and said don't do this. Don't hold up Senator Kirk's nominee. He's in the hospital. Now he's home, thank goodness, recovering from a stroke. We did this together. We're working together. Don't separate these two fine men. There is no reason to do it. But I understand that this was the arrangement and they didn't want to change it, even to help Senator Kirk under these circumstances. They wanted to do only two nominees a week over a seven-week period of time, and the cutoff, the line they drew was unfortunately between Mr. Lee and Mr. Tharp. Well, I was going to make unanimous consent request today to include Mr. Tharp along with Mr. Lee on the vote that we're about to take. There is only one reason I'm not. We have received an ironclad assurance from the Senate Republican floor staff that Mr. Tharp is going to be called on a timely basis during this work period. I'm going to hold them to it. I don't want to embarrass anyone, but it bothers me that the nominee of Senator Kirk is being held up by the Republican side of the aisle when it should be voted on today. There is no reason why it should not be voted on today. We should vote for both of them, but because a word has been given to me by a staff member whom I respect very much, I won't make this unanimous consent request."

Senator Pryor: (5:16 PM)
  • Spoke on the Baker nomination.

Senator Feinstein: (5:19 PM)
  • Spoke on the Nguyen and Watford nominations.