Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

If Dems Go Through with Delay, Leahy Will Look Bad


This comes from the November schedule release press conference:

SEN. SPECTER: We will then go to the exec on the 17th. And here we can’t get everybody bound in writing to waive it in advance, but Pat Leahy and Arlen Specter have had no problems, nor have we — anybody on the committee of not fulfilling what we have said we’d do as a matter of good-faith intent, which will put the executive session on the 17th. We finished that with Chief Justice Roberts in the morning. And then we would go to the 18th, 19th and 20th for floor debate, with a vote on the 20th.

= = =

SEN. LEAHY: I — well, first I agree with the chairman. We — I know that he was under intense pressure from the White House and elsewhere to do this in December, which — they have other schedules. I realize they’re busy. They have, after all, made three nominations for this one seat. We’d like to do it just once and get it right. And in December, the Senate wouldn’t be in session. It would make no sense.

The — I had suggested — and Senator Specter felt the same way — if you did it that first week in January, basically the people most damaged by that are the staffs — both Republican and Democratic staffs. They worked all throughout the August break. Many of them had young children, and others, if they wanted to see, they didn’t get to see. We did that to prepare for Roberts. On this one, they — the one time they have a chance to see their family would be during the Christmas — normal Christmas-New Year’s break, and if we were going into this the Tuesday — or Monday or Tuesday after New Year’s, all that does is bring a whole lot of people’s plans crashing down.

I’ve had plans about two and a half years for the second week, but I’m willing to set those aside to make this work right.

Having said all that, it seems like a lot of work on scheduling. Frankly, with all the calls that everybody’s been getting from the White House and from senior Democratic members and senior Republican members, in the end they’re a lot better off just leaving it to the two of us. We’ve been here for a while, we are grown-ups, we know how to get these — we know how to get these things done. I — and done right. I expressed yesterday my concern with Ms. Miers; she was yanked because of a very vocal — small but vocal group who said they didn’t know how she was going to vote, so she had to be yanked. Senator Specter and I, I think everybody knew, would have guaranteed a totally fair hearing for her.

Now, on this one, the same group said immediately, well, he’s okay, we know how he’ll vote. Incidentally, Judge Alito made it very clear to me, speaking yesterday, that he has not given commitments to anybody. But we want to do it thoroughly. This is, as Senator Specter said, for the swing vote, currently the swing vote in the Supreme Court, it is for a position that represents all 280 million Americans. Originally the 18 of us will have the involvement of asking who he is, and then 100 senators have to vote. I will hold my decision how I’ll vote for him, of course, as I have with the 13 Supreme Court nominees I’ve been here for, until after we’ve had a hearing. This is the only right way to do it. This way we will be going on a very fast pace, but we’re doing one that is reasonable. I agree with the chairman, who said it’s far more important to do it right than fast. In this case I suspect we’re doing both.

It works out well. Again, Senator Specter and I will have, as you can imagine, numerous personal commitments we’ll make through this. We’ve known each other for a long, long time. We’ve never broken a commitment one to the other.


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