Sen. Durbing Floor statement: FILLING THE SUPREME COURT VACANCY
(Democrat - Illinois)
"If you decide the Senate Judiciary Committee will not even entertain a nomination to fill the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court , it will be the first time in the history of the U.S. Senate--the first. If the Senate Republican leadership makes the decision that even if a nominee is sent they will never allow a vote, it will be the first time in the history of the United States .... the Republican majority continues to obstruct the appointment of judges and people to serve in the executive branch of government under this President. It has been unprecedented. They decided not just on this nominee but long ago that they would not give this President the same treatment, the same respect that has been given other Presidents. ... Last year, Senate Republicans matched the record for confirming the fewest number of judicial nominees in more than half a century, with 11 for the entire year. Overall, in the current Congress Republicans have only allowed 16 judges to be confirmed, compared to 68 judges that were confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate in the last two years of George W. Bush's administration. There are 17 non-controversial judicial nominees pending on the Senate executive calendar, all of whom were reported out of committee by unanimous voice vote. Currently there are 81 judicial vacancies, including 31 judicial emergencies."
Sen. Reid's website: Senate Breaks Nominations Gridlock
(Democrat - Nevada)
In the weeks since the rules change, 16 nominees have been confirmed by the Senate. Those nominees include the head of the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of the Air Force, and judges who fill “judicial emergencies.” In fact, none of these nominees would have been confirmed under the old Senate rules because cloture was invoked on all of them with less than 60 votes (the old standard for successful cloture). After voting to block these nominees, Republicans have flipped and voted to confirm a handful of them.
Sen. Blumenthal Statement On Senate Confirmation Of Nina Pillard To D.C. Circuit Court
(Democrat - Connecticut)
“This vote, which I was proud to passionately advocate, marks a great day for justice in America. Nina Pillard exemplifies the intellect and integrity the courts need, and the talent and temperament characteristic of our best judges. Most important, she is committed unshakably to the rule of law. She has been a superlative legal advocate and scholar, who will now assure that law is applied fairly and impartially."
Sen. Leahy: Senate Confirms Pillard To The D.C. Circuit Court
(Democrat - Vermont)
“Despite having filled nearly half of law school classrooms for the last 20 years, women are grossly underrepresented on our Federal courts. We need women on the Federal bench,” Leahy said. “The Senate moved another step forward in that effort by voting to confirm Nina Pillard, one of several highly qualified women nominated by President Obama like Patricia Millett, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. I am proud to support such incredible nominees, and I applaud the Senate for voting to confirm Nina Pillard.”
Sen. Merkley Floor Statement for Pillard D.C. Circuit Nomination
(Democrat - Oregon)
"Professor Pillard's unbiased approach to the law has won the respect of her colleagues in law and in government, including former Department of Justice officials in Republican administrations who have endorsed her nomination to the DC Circuit.... we have the ongoing campaign of subjecting virtually every nomination to a supermajority....That is just a pure deliberate campaign of paralysis and obstruction, undermining the contribution of this body, its responsibility as a legislative body. It is not only judicial nominees, it is executive nominees as well. ... Then we had a whole new strategy on the judiciary. This strategy had never been experienced in U.S. history. It was: No matter whom President Obama nominates for the DC Circuit Court, we are going to block that nominee because we only want to leave in place the nominees that were put in place by President Bush. That is in direct contravention of the vision of the Constitution where each President as elected has the power to nominate. This Chamber is a check. It gets to vote up or down and decide whether they should be in office. But this was a deliberate strategy to pack the Court, to say that when a President of my party is in power, there will be up-or-down votes, as was insisted in 2005 when the tables were turned, but when the President is of the other party, we are going to have a perpetual campaign and we are going to block up-or-down votes."
Sen. Coons Floor Statement on D.C. Circuit Nominees; Obstruction and need to fill all vacancies
(Democrat - Delaware)
"I wish to add to the comments of the majority leader that the nominees to serve on the DC Circuit, the nominees to many district court seats, whose confirmations I have either presided over or attended, were not objected to on substantive grounds. I have trouble with the idea that the three empty seats on the DC Circuit do not need to be filled. I have listened at great length to the arguments about caseload and about workload. As the chair of the courts subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, I presided over the presentation of the Judicial Conference's report on where we need additional judgeships and where we don't. I will note briefly and in passing that Judge Tymkovich, who presented this report, did not suggest there was some need to reduce the DC Circuit by eliminating these currently vacant spots.... In my view, we have three excellent, qualified candidates. I regret that we have spent so much time burning the clock and that we have had to make changes that ultimately will make it possible for qualified nominees to be confirmed."
Sen. Merkley: Advice and Consent Role Restored in Senate, Praises Millett Confirmation
(Democrat - Oregon)
“Today’s vote shows that the constitutional concept of ‘advice and consent’ has been restored in the United States Senate. There is no doubt that Patricia Millett is extremely qualified and will be a valuable addition to the D.C. Circuit Court, which will rule on issues that directly and deeply impact middle class families, like health care, workplace safety, and clean air and water rules. I am pleased that the Senate has confirmed this qualified nominee. We must now confirm the remaining nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court and the Executive Branch without delay.”
Sen. Angus S. King Jr. column: Filibuster reform
(Independent - Maine)
"This month, three judicial nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, including Patricia Millett of Dexter, were blocked not on the basis of their qualifications, but rather because they were nominated by President Barack Obama. Similarly, Republicans have used procedural hurdles to block executive nominees resulting in a leadership vacuum at many of our federal agencies. ... My vote in favor of the rule change, of finally invoking the nuclear option, reflects my belief that judicial and executive nominees deserve an up-or-down vote by the Senate, regardless of which party is in the majority, or which party controls the White House, and that we needed a structural adjustment to the rules so that the Senate could once again function."
Sen. Cruz: Senate Triggered Nuclear Option To Pack D.C. Circuit & Distract From Obamacare
(Republican - Texas)
"The nuclear option was a blatant abuse of power. It was designed really to do two things. Number one, to change the topic from Obamacare," Cruz said Thursday during a speech at an American Legislative Exchange Council event. The second thing, Cruz continued, had to do with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats have pushed back on the court-packing argument, saying that Republicans had no problem confirming D.C. Circuit Court nominations under a Republican president.
"The nuclear option was directed exactly at that because it was directed at three judges on the D.C. Circuit [Court], the circuit that hears most of the challenges to the abuse of executive authority on Obamacare and everything else," Cruz said. "Right now the D.C. circuit is evenly split with Republican nominees and Democratic nominees and what Harry Reid is trying to do is pack it with additional judges they believe will rubber stamp the president's agenda."
Sen. Sanders Statement on Majority Rule in the Senate
(Democrat - Vermont)
“Most Americans grew up believing that in America the majority rules. They also believe that this country deserves a Senate that is not dysfunctional and unable to address the needs of the American people. Unfortunately, in recent years the Republican minority has engaged in an unprecedented level of obstructionism. They have used the filibuster hundreds of times to delay or block the president’s nominees and to stop legislation from even being considered. Today’s decision by the Senate to let the majority rule on votes to confirm judges, cabinet secretaries and other senior administration officials is a step in the right direction toward ending dysfunction in the Senate.”
Sen. King Statement on Vote to Alter Filibuster Rule
(Democrat - Maine)
"I entered the Senate with significant concern for the way the filibuster was being continually, and in my belief, inappropriately, used to stall judicial and executive nominations and prevent legislation from moving forward. Over the past eleven months in office, and despite several earlier informal agreements brokered to ameliorate the problem, I believe the abuse of the filibuster has only grown worse, most recently with repeated partisan objections to a series of the President’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is important to me to go back to the language of the Constitution on this question. Article II, Section 2, defines the President’s power to enter into treaties, make executive and judicial nominations, and identifies the role of the Senate in this process. Significantly, this provision specifies that the President’s power to enter into treaties must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate, while in the same sentence, no such super-majority requirement is imposed in connection with presidential appointments. I believe that today’s action is more fully consistent with the terms of the Constitution than the previous extra-Constitutional practice which imposed a super-majority requirement for these nominations. My support of the rule change was not an easy decision to reach, but it reflects my belief that these nominees deserve an up-or-down vote by the Senate, regardless of which party is in the majority or which party controls the White House, and that a structural adjustment was necessary in order for that to occur and for the Senate to function better as an institution."
Sen. Markey Statement on “Nuclear Option” Vote
(Democrat - Massachusetts)
“Today, I voted to end the Republicans’ unprecedented and unwarranted obstruction on the Senate floor. Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked President Obama’s executive and judicial nominees, even in cases where they declare to have no stated issue with the individual nominees’ qualifications. This obstructionism by Tea Party Republican extremists – the same people who shut down the federal government just a month ago – needs to be brought to an end. Senate Republicans are seeking to prevent President Obama from exercising his constitutional duty to fill the federal courts and his administration. Rather than objecting to a particular judge’s qualifications, Republicans are objecting simply to anyone being confirmed to the DC Circuit – the court that reviews most federal rules and regulation. If the GOP was actually committed to progress and bipartisanship, there would be no need for filibuster reform. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have turned the filibuster into a tool to paralyze, not persuade. That’s unacceptable. We have an obligation to the American people and the Constitution to ensure that the DC Circuit court, our judiciary, and our entire government is not crippled by judicial vacancies. I hope that we can come together and pass legislation and confirm nominees for the good of the American people and our nation.”
Sen. Tom Udall Hails Rules Changes to Make Senate Work for American People
(Democrat - New Mexico)
"This change finally returns the Senate to the majority rule standard that is required by the Constitution when it comes to executive branch and judicial nominees. With this change, if those nominees are qualified, they get an up or down vote in the Senate. If a majority is opposed, they can reject a nominee. But a minority shouldn't be able to delay them indefinitely. That is how our democracy is intended to work. New Mexicans - all Americans - are tired of the gridlock in Washington. The recent filibuster of three D.C. Circuit nominees over the last four weeks wasn't the beginning of this obstruction. It was the final straw in a long history of blocking the president's nominees. Doing nothing was no longer an option. It was time to rein in the unprecedented abuse of the filibuster, and I'm relieved the Senate took action today."
Senator Coons votes to end gridlock on nominations
(Democrat - Delaware)
“Over the past several years, we have seen nominees for the cabinet, agencies, judgeships, and even ambassador filibustered and threatened with filibuster time and again. In just the last month, simple up-or-down votes have been blocked on Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Robert Wilkins — three eminently qualified and politically non-controversial nominees for the D.C. Circuit Court — and on Congressman Mel Watt’s nomination to run the Federal Housing Finance Authority. No serious questions have been raised about the qualifications of any of the nominees and the trumped-up caseload argument about the D.C. Circuit flies in the face of recent history when, during the previous administration, a Republican-led Senate confirmed controversial nominees on four different occasions to fill the very same seats they are now filibustering. The range and duration of obstruction of nominations has made clear that simply hoping for an end to the Republican strategy of gridlocking the Senate is not enough. I cast my vote in favor of these reforms today with a heavy heart but a clear conscience. The current system just is not working for the American people. We took a step today toward fixing it.”
Statement of Sen. Mark Warner on Senate Rule Change
(Democrat - Virginia)
"The Senate confirmation process has been broken for some time. Perfectly qualified nominees are constantly being filibustered at a rate we’ve never seen before. The rule that was changed today only impacts executive branch appointees and judicial nominees other than the Supreme Court. It still requires a majority vote of the Senate for confirmation. This change does not impact other legislation at all. The minority party can continue to filibuster other legislation with a 60-vote requirement."
Sen. Whitehouse Applauds Filibuster Change
(Democrat - Rhode Island)
“The Constitution gives President Obama the responsibility to fill executive and judicial vacancies, and the Senate the responsibility to advise and consent. Senate Republicans recently have used filibusters to seize the Senate’s advice and consent function and give it to the minority party. Nothing in the Constitution provides for filibuster, and nothing in the Constitution gives the Senate minority party the right to obstruct nominees. This pattern of obstruction had to stop. I support Majority Leader Reid's decision today to end the obstruction and put the Senate back to work for the American people.”
Sen. Levin Floor Statement on Proposed 'Nuclear Option'
(Democrat - Michigan)
"Republicans have filibustered three eminently qualified nominees to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. They make no pretense of argument that these nominees are unqualified. The mere nomination of qualified judges by this President, they say, qualifies as “court packing.” It is the latest attempt by Republicans, having lost two presidential elections, to seek preventing the duly elected president from fulfilling his constitutional duties. The thin veneer of substance laid over this partisan obstruction is the claim that the D.C. Circuit has too many judges. This is, to be kind, a debatable proposition, one for which there is ample contrary evidence, and surely one that falls far short of the need to provoke a constitutional battle. Republicans know they cannot succeed in passing legislation to reduce the size of the court. So, presented with a statutory and constitutional reality they do not like, they have decided to ignore that reality, and decided that they can obstruct the President’s nominees for no substantive reason. I do not want anyone to mistake my meaning here: The actions of Senate Republicans on this matter are irresponsible. These actions put short-term partisan interest ahead of the good of the nation and the future of this Senate as a unique institution. And it is deeply dispiriting to see so many Republican colleagues who have in the past pledged to filibuster judicial nominees only in extraordinary circumstances engaged in such partisan gamesmanship.... In the short term, judges will be confirmed who should be confirmed. But when the precedent is set that a majority can change the rules at will on judges, that precedent will be used to change the rules on consideration of legislation, and down the road, the hard-won protections and benefits for our people’s health and welfare will be less secure."
SEN. MURPHY STATEMENT ON SENATE RULES CHANGES TO END OBSTRUCTIONS OF JUDICIAL NOMINEES
(Democrat - Connecticut)
"You can shut down the government by refusing to fund it, but you can also shut it down by refusing to let people do the job of running it. That's effectively what Republicans have done by their record number of filibusters of President Obama's appointees and judicial nominees. I supported today's rules change because it's just common sense that the people that the President picks to work for him or serve in the judiciary deserve an up or down vote. For years, Republicans have used the filibuster to stop the Senate from voting on dozens of nominees, and that practice—a total bastardization of the historic use of the filibuster—needed to end."
SEN. KAINE STATEMENT ON SENATE RULES CHANGE TO END GRIDLOCK
(Democrat - Virginia)
“Today I joined a majority of my Senate colleagues in taking an important step to ensure highly-qualified, non-controversial judicial nominees, including Virginia’s own Pattie Millett, are given the up-or-down vote they deserve. What we have witnessed in the Senate in recent months is unprecedented. The only explanation for blocking the consideration of a nominee like Ms. Millett – a military spouse who has served under both Democratic and Republican Solicitor Generals, has argued more cases before the Supreme Court and circuit courts than all but a handful of attorneys and is uniformly praised by bar groups – is that Republicans have committed to pursuing a strategy of nullifying the law to achieve their goals. Their decision to block four highly-qualified nominees to the D.C. Circuit since I took office eleven months ago – three in the last three weeks alone – is proof that the goal was to nullify the law that says the D.C. Circuit has eleven judges. Today’s rules change will end this unprecedented abuse of the filibuster and allow us to begin to break through the gridlock that has frustrated Virginians and prevented us from tackling so many important issues facing our country.”
Sen. Reid Remarks on Changing the Senate Rules
(Democrat - Nevada)
"Republicans are willing to block executive branch nominees even when they have no objection to the qualifications of the nominee....And they block qualified judicial nominees because they don’t want President Obama to appoint any judges to certain courts. The need for change is obvious. In the history of the Republic, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations. Half of them have occurred during the Obama Administration – during the last four and a half years. These nominees deserve at least an up-or-down vote. ... Republicans have blocked four of President Obama’s five nominees to the D.C. Circuit, whereas Democrats approved four of President Bush’s six nominees to this important court. Today, 25 percent of the D.C. Circuit Court is vacant. There isn’t a single legitimate objection to the qualifications of any of these nominees. Yet Republicans refused to give them an up-or-down vote – a simple yes-or-no vote. Republicans simply don’t want President Obama to make any appointments at all to this vital court....More than half the nation’s population lives in a part of the country that’s been declared a “judicial emergency.”"
Sen. Harkin Joins Effort to Reform the Rules of the Senate: Harkin led the effort beginning in 1995 to break the gridlock; modernize the rules
(Democrat - Iowa)
“Nearly two decades ago, as a member of the minority party in the U.S. Senate, I argued that reform of the rules was critical for the Senate to be able to respond to the challenges of the day. Since that time, the use of the filibuster has accelerated – to the point where now, even the most routine and mundane business is subjected to the fillister by the minority party. In fact, it has gotten so bad, that Senators now get up and openly say that we are not abiding by the normal ’60 vote rule’ of the Senate. There is no such rule, but it is becoming the norm. While neither party has completely clean hands in this respect, the Republican Party’s recent abuse of the filibuster to block qualified nominees is without precedent in the U.S. Senate. If the chamber is to be able to respond to the challenges of the 21st Century, this cannot go on. For that reason, I welcome the Senate’s action today and I was proud to support Majority Leader Reid in this vote."
Leahy Supports Change In Senate Rules To Address Unprecedented Filibusters: “As a result of Republican obstruction of nominees, the Senate has failed to do its job for the courts and for the American people”
(Democrat - Vermont)
In recent weeks, Senate Republicans have blocked three highly qualified nominees to serve on the D.C. Circuit. Since 2009, 14 circuit court nominees have been filibustered, and Senate Republicans have forced cloture to end filibusters on nearly three dozen of President Obama’s judicial nominees. Meanwhile, federal judicial vacancies have consistently hovered around 90. The obstruction, Leahy said, “is damaging our ability to fulfill the Senate’s unique constitutional responsibility of advice and consent to ensure that the judicial branch has the judges it needs to do its job.” ... "I have always looked skeptically at efforts to change the Senate rules.” Today, Leahy said, the Senate “is faced with what to do to overcome this abuse and what action we should take to restore this body’s ability to fulfill its constitutional duties and do its work for the American people.”
Sen. Merkley Floor statement and colloquy with Sen. Tom Udall on filibusters and judicial & other nominations
(Democrat - Oregon)
"Look at the well-qualified nominees who have been blocked from having an up-or-down vote here in the Senate Chamber just in recent weeks: Mel Watt, nominated to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency; and then nominees to the court: Patricia Millett, Cornelia Pillard, and now Robert Wilkins. These folks are highly qualified, but they were not allowed to have an up-or-down vote. ... Now we have a special situation that has arisen in which the minority says: We are going to block all nominees to the DC Circuit Court regardless of their qualifications because we want to see it dominated by the nominees from a former President, and we do not let the existing President put his fair share of nominees into those vacancies. ... because the January promise was broken, because the July promise was broken, and, therefore, we are in the position where we have to do by rule that which cannot be done by simple cooperation."
Sen. Tom Udall Floor colloquy with Sen. Merkley on filibusters of judicial and other nominees
(Democrat - New Mexico)
"Monday's vote was one more example of why we need reform. Judge Robert Wilkins is well qualified to serve on the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. He deserved an up-or-down vote. Instead, what did we get? Another filibuster. He is the fourth nominee to that court to be trampled on by the minority--not because he is unqualified, not because of any failing on his part, but because a Democratic President nominated him....First it was Caitlin Halligan in March, then Patricia Millett last month, followed by Nina Pillard last week, and now Robert Wilkins --each of them exceptional, every one of them distinguished nominees.... The only ``extraordinary circumstance'' has been continual obstruction."
Sen. Tom Udall: Gridlock Tying up the Senate; Reform Needed Now to Make Congress Work
(Democrat - New Mexico)
"New Mexicans - all Americans - are tired of the gridlock in Washington. They're tired of endless filibusters and political games," Udall said after his speech. "When it comes to confirmations, historically, the Senate has used the filibuster only in extreme cases. With these last three D.C. Circuit nominees there hasn't even been a pretext for blocking their confirmation. Republicans are refusing to move forward on any nominees to the D.C. Circuit period. That's unprecedented obstruction, not advise and consent."