Leahy, Boxer, Alexander

Morning Business

Senator Leahy: (10:33 AM)
  • Spoke on GOP obstructionism of judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "He seeks to secure Senate votes for 17 highly qualified federal district court nominations, favorably reported by the Judiciary committee. They're being blocked by Senate Republicans and I wish that we should find a way to stop these damaging filibusters. They're totally unprecedented. It is damaging greatly the most respected court system in the world, our federal court system. That means that Americans are not getting the justice without delay that they are entitled to. I have been here 37 years. Republican presidents, Democratic presidents, Republican majorities, Democratic majorities - never in that 37 years have we seen district court nominees blocked for months, as we've seen since President Obama was elected. These kind of consensus nominees are normally taken up within a few days or a week after being voted out - after being nominated and voted out of our Judiciary committee. It was certainly the approach taken by Senate Democrats when President Bush sent his consensus nominees. As a result, we were able to reduce vacancies in the presidential election years of 2004 and 2008 to the lowest levels. We confirmed 205 of President Bush's judicial nominees in his first term and for those that want to understand where the partisanship it, those first 48 months of President Bush's first term, a little bit of history. 31 months of those 48, Republicans controlled the Senate. 17 months, Democrats controlled the Senate. To show that we wanted to set aside partisanship, in our 17 months that we were in control, we confirmed 100 of President Bush's nominees. Now, in the 31 months that Republicans were in charge, they did more. they did 105. So the fact is, we actually moved a lot faster on President Bush's nominees than the Republicans did. I was Chairman, and I tried to do that just to get us away from what we'd seen where Republicans had pocket-filibustered 60 of President Clinton's nominees. I wanted to get back to where we took the federal courts out of politics but we see now a complete reversal of this. Senate Republicans ensure that nominees from the past would be confirmed promptly by the Senate are now blocked for months. An unprecedented number of President Obama's highly qualified men and women to the district court have been targeted for obstruction while extreme outside groups tarnish their reputations with invented controversies. It is unprecedented. It hurts our system of justice in this country."

Senator Boxer: (10:42 AM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "I just thought I could give the senators and those who may be following this very elongated debate on the Highway bill an update as to where we are. We have a managers' package that we're hoping to approve momentarily. It is a bipartisan package. We continue to work across the aisle and under the consent, we want to move forward with that. we had a bit of a holdup yesterday. We're working to find out why, but we're very hopeful that that will move forward. Then we have a series of votes on amendments, beginning at about noon. So at 11:30 or so we'll be back on the bill and I just wanted to say to my friends on the other side of the aisle and my friends on this side of the aisle that we are making great progress. This is a jobs bill. This is a major jobs bill. This is the biggest jobs bill. Now, they passed an IPO bill over there in the House. Eric Cantor is saying it is a jobs bill. I don't know how many jobs it will create. It's an investor bill. It's good. I'm for it but it doesn't come anywhere close to the bill we're working on today. Because on March 31, if we do not act on this transportation bill, everything will come to a screeching halt, if I might use that analogy because there won't be a gas tax anymore going into the federal trust fund, highway trust fund; there won't be any funds going from the federal government to the various planning organizations in all of our states and communities."

Senator Alexander: (10:51 AM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "This is a little disagreement that we have here between the Majority leader and the Republican leader on the scheduling of votes on district judges. It's not a high constitutional matter. It's not even a high principle. It's not even a big disagreement. It's a little disagreement, because what's always happened is the back and forth of scheduling, they work it out and they have been working it out. I took a look at the last three years. In the first two years of President Obama's administration, he nominated 78 district judges and 76 of those judges were confirmed. They were confirmed. 76 of 78 in the first two years. He withdrew two. Then last year 61 more district judges were confirmed. What about this year? What about 2012? The President's made a few nominations, but they haven't been considered yet by the Judiciary committee. So where are we in 2012? We have 17 district court judgeships that have been recommended by the Judiciary committee. They could be brought up by the majority leader. He has the right to do that but of those 17, six of them - six of them - have been here for less than 30 days. They just got here, that leaves 11. How long have they been there? They came in October, November and December of last year and normally they would have been included in a year-end clearing but everybody knows what happens. The President decided to violate the Reid rule, which says that you don't make recess appointments during three-day pro forma sessions. That was invented by the Majority leader of the United States Senate, Senator Reid. President bush didn't like it but he respected it but President Obama violated it, and it blew up the year-end clearing of a number of nominees, including district judges. So we have some district judges who are waiting to be confirmed, but we don't have many."