Bench Memos

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McConnell and Hatch on Dems’ Confirmation Obstruction


This morning, several Republican senators made floor statements decrying the ongoing Democratic obstruction of judicial confirmations.  I’ve received the text of the remarks of Republican leader Mitch McConnell and of Orrin Hatch and offer excerpts here.


Senator McConnell: 

It’s been 108 days since this Senate confirmed a federal judge of any kind.  It last did so the week before Christmas, on December 18, 2007.…  It has not confirmed any federal judicial nominees this year, and the Judiciary Committee has held only one hearing on one circuit court nominee since last September.… 

This is another week in which the Committee could have held a hearing, for example, on the qualified nominees to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, but it again chose not to do so.  These nominees meet the Chairman’s own criteria for prompt consideration.  Nevertheless, they have been inexplicably languishing in the Committee for hundreds of days without a hearing while the Fourth Circuit is one-third vacant. 

We were told that having the support of home-state senators “means a great deal and points toward the kind of qualified consensus nominee that can be quickly confirmed.”  Well, Steven Matthews of South Carolina has the strong support of both his home-state senators—one of whom, by the way, sits on the committee of jurisdiction.  But he has been waiting 217 days for a hearing.  And Judge Robert Conrad of North Carolina—whom the Senate has already unanimously confirmed to two federal positions, most recently to a life-time position on the district court—has the strong support of both of his home-state senators.  Yet he has been waiting for 268 days. 

Now, my Democratic colleagues are quick to point to the lack of home-state support as a reason not to give someone a hearing.  But it’s beginning to look like this criterion is being selectively applied: it’s readily used as a reason not to move a nominee—coincidentally, when the nominee is from a state with a Democratic Senator—but it’s ignored when the nominee has the support of two Republican Senators. 

Senator Hatch: 

Some say that the process always shuts down in a presidential election year, so I checked every one since I was first elected.  By today, April 10, in each of those presidential election years, the Judiciary Committee had held hearings for multiple appeals court nominees.  But this year, only one appeals court nominee has had a hearing, and there is not another one on the schedule. 

Since I was first elected, there have been seven Congresses like this one that included a presidential election year.  During each of these presidential election Congresses, the Judiciary Committee held hearings for an average of 25 appeals court nominees.  But today, more than fifteen months into the 110th Congress, the Judiciary Committee has held a hearing for only five appeals court nominees.…

[W]hen I chaired the Judiciary Committee under the previous President and the hearing pace was actually much faster than it is today, [Democrats] did complain early, loudly, and often.…  The current Judiciary Committee hearing pace for appeals court nominees is the worst in decades.…

The majority has stalled judicial confirmation votes longer this year than in any presidential election year since 1848.  Yes, you heard me right.  This is the latest start to judicial confirmations of any presidential election year in 160 years.

Tags: Whelan


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