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Senator Statements

 

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Sen. Boxer Floor statement on vacant judgeships and justice delayed is justice denied
(Democrat - California) 01/16/14
"We have courts where the judgeships are vacant. Justice delayed is justice denied. We need those judges in their places. The Senator from Iowa, I remember, made a big, eloquent speech about how we wanted to ``pack'' the courts. Anyone who knows anything about history knows pack the courts means wanting to add more judges and put your people in it. It doesn't mean filling vacancies. I think he got off that. But that was something to listen to. We need to take care of the people's business and not play politics depending on who is in the White House."

Sen. Cardin Floor Statement in strong support of Judge Robert Wilkins D.C. Circuit nomination
(Democrat - Maryland) 01/14/14
"I was pleased to introduce Judge Wilkins to the Judiciary Committee in September and the committee favorably reported his nomination in October. He was filibustered in November, and I am pleased we are reconsidering his nomination today.... This court handles unusually complex cases in the area of administrative law, including revealing decisions and rulemaking of many Federal agencies in policy areas, such as environment, labor, and financial regulations. Nationally, only about 15 percent of the appeals are administrative in nature--15 percent. That is the national number. In the DC Circuit, that figure is 43 percent. They have a much larger caseload of complex cases.... Let me quote from former Chief Judge Henry Edwards, who said: '[R]eview of large, multiparty, difficult administrative appeals is the staple of judicial work in the DC Circuit. This alone distinguishes the work of the DC Circuit from the work of other circuits. It also explains why it is impossible to compare the work of the DC Circuit with other circuits by simply referring to raw data on case filings.' I mention that because there have been some here who say ``the workload of the court.'' The workload of the court requires us to fill this vacancy. Chief Justice Roberts noted that ``about two-thirds of the cases before the DC Circuit involved the Federal Government in some civil capacity, while that figure is less than twenty-five percent nationwide.'' He also described the ``D.C. Circuit's unique character, as a court with special responsibility to review legal challenges to the conduct of the national government.'' He should know. Justice Roberts came from that circuit court."

Sen. Leahy: Senate Confirms Wilkins To The D.C. Circuit
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/14/14
“As we begin 2014, I hope we can set aside our differences and do what is best for this country by confirming qualified nominees to fill critical vacancies facing our Federal Judiciary,” Leahy said in a statement, referencing the record high number of judicial vacancies across the country. Leahy called Wilkins “an outstanding nominee,” who with his confirmation today, becomes just the sixth African American in history to serve on the powerful D.C. Circuit. “Despite the progress made in the past several decades, the struggle to diversify our Federal bench continues,” Leahy said. “I am proud to support the nomination of Judge Wilkins today and to support other highly qualified nominees whose diverse personal and professional background help further enrich the judiciary.”

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/13/14
"Once Judge Wilkins is confirmed, the DC Circuit, which is often considered to be the second most important court in the Nation, will finally be operating at full strength. The American people deserve no less....Despite the progress made in the past several decades, the struggle to diversify our Federal bench continues. When confirmed, Judge Wilkins will be only the sixth African American to have ever served on the DC Circuit."

Judge Norton Recommended for U.S. District Court Confirmed by Senate for Promotion to D.C. Circuit Court
(Democrat - District of Columbia) 01/13/14
“The Senate today has done a great service to the country by confirming Judge Wilkins to our nation’s second most powerful court,” said Norton. “I was proud to recommend Robert Wilkins for the district court here in 2010. I was not surprised by his nomination by the president to the D.C. Circuit Court, and could not be more pleased with his well-deserved confirmation today. His strong reputation among his peers in the profession, especially for a young man, is universally high.”

Sen. Lee Floor Statement on Wilkins Nomination
(Republican - Utah) 01/13/14
"We just confirmed Judge Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. I voted against this judge. In doing that, I joined my Republican colleagues for one simple reason. Several years ago, when President George W. Bush was in the White House, he nominated an eminently qualified lawyer named Peter Keisler who had bipartisan support. ...Since that time, if anything, the DC Circuit's caseload per judge has remained about the same or some would argue has gone down a little, depending on which metric you use."

Sen. Cardin Applauds Senate Confirmation Of Judge Robert Wilkins To The D.C. Court Of Appeals
(Democrat - Maryland) 01/13/14
“I had the pleasure of introducing Judge Robert L. Wilkins to the Judiciary Committee some months ago. Tonight I am pleased that the Senate has finally voted to allow such a qualified nominee to sit on the Nation’s second highest court,” said Senator Cardin. “As a plaintiff, as a jurist, and someone with a lifelong record of public service, Judge Wilkins has shown himself as eminently qualified to fill a seat on the important D.C Court of Appeals.”

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Nomination of Robert Wilkins
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/09/14
"As we begin 2014, I hope we can set aside our differences and do what is best for this country by confirming qualified nominees to fill critical vacancies facing our Federal Judiciary. We can do this today by voting to end the filibuster of Judge Robert Wilkins, who has been nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. ... Another threat facing our courts which is unaddressed in the Chief’s year-end report are the continuing vacancies experienced by the Federal courts. Over the last year, the number of vacancies has hovered around 90 because obstruction in Congress has led to filibuster after filibuster of qualified nominees. And the unfortunate action taken by Republicans at the end of the first session of this Congress will only mean further delay in filling these vacancies—Republicans, for the first time ever, refused to allow any currently pending judicial nominees to be held over so that they could be ready for immediate action this year. For purely political reasons, Senate Republicans are forcing us to duplicate work this year that we already completed in 2013."

Sen. Reid Floor Remarks on the Schedule
(Democrat - Nevada) 12/16/13
"The Senate must also confirm Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve, Alejandro Mayorkas to be Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security and John Koskinen to lead the Internal Revenue Service. The nominations of Judge Robert Wilkins’ to be a member of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and of Brian Davis of Florida to be a district court judge are also priorities. Mr. Davis’ nomination has been pending for two years."

Sen. Blumenthal Statement On Senate Confirmation Of Nina Pillard To D.C. Circuit Court
(Democrat - Connecticut) 12/12/13
“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) 12/12/13
“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) 12/11/13
"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) 12/11/13
"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. Kaine Statement On Confirmation Of Patricia Millett To D.C. Circuit
(Democrat - Virginia) 12/10/13
“With Pattie Millett's confirmation to the D.C. Circuit, the court gains a supremely qualified jurist with a strong record of bipartisan public service under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Pattie’s career has prepared her well for this post and I was honored to introduce her at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. On top of her impressive career and educational experience, Pattie is a proud military spouse who will represent the unique perspective of military families.”

Sen. Reid Floor Statement on Patricia Millett D.C. Circuit nomination
(Democrat - Nevada) 12/10/13
"I am pleased that today Ms. Millett will finally get the fair, up-or-down vote she deserves. Ms. Millett is exceedingly qualified for this position. She graduated at the top of her class from the University of Illinois at Urbana and attended Harvard Law School. Ms. Millett has argued more than 32 cases before the Supreme Court, including one while her husband was deployed overseas with the U.S. Navy. She also served as Assistant Solicitor General under both President Bill Clinton and President George Bush. She enjoys bipartisan support from a variety of law enforcement officials, legal professionals, and military organizations. And it is my honor to help confirm a woman whom colleagues have called fair-minded, principled, and exceptionally gifted."

Sen. Leahy: Senate Confirms Millett To The D.C. Circuit Court
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/10/13
"John Roberts was confirmed unanimously to the D.C. Circuit on the day the Judiciary Committee completed consideration of his nomination and reported it to the Senate—at a time when the caseload of the D.C. Circuit by any measure was lower than it is today. If only Senate Republicans had been willing to apply the same standard for Ms. Millett. Instead, they decided to filibuster her nomination even though they had promised to only filibuster nominations under “extraordinary circumstances.” If those Senators had been true to their word, I do not believe we would have reached the tipping point on the use of the filibuster. By refusing to allow a vote for any existing vacancy on the D.C. Circuit, Republicans took their determined obstruction to an unprecedented level.... Now that the Senate has changed its precedents to overcome the escalating obstruction of some, I hope reasonable Republicans will join us in restoring the Senate’s ability to fulfill its constitutional duties."

Sen. Merkley: Advice and Consent Role Restored in Senate, Praises Millett Confirmation
(Democrat - Oregon) 12/10/13
“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. Tom Udall: Filibuster Rule Change Reducing Senate Gridlock: Confirmation of Millett by vote of 56-38 shows rules change is allowing Senate to return to standard of ‘advise and consent' as required by the Constitution
(Democrat - New Mexico) 12/10/13
"Patricia Millett deserved an up-or-down vote in October, but she instead became another example of a highly qualified nominee blocked purely for partisan gain. Patricia Millett's confirmation today isn't a radical move. What's radical is that the Senate is finally doing what our founders intended - exercising its advise and consent responsibilities. A majority of the body approved of Millett's confirmation, so she now heads to the federal bench."

Sen. Leahy: Senate Moves Closer To Filling Vacancies On D.C. Circuit; Pillard Poised To Be Confirmed To 10th Seat
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/10/13
“The D.C. Circuit is often considered to be the second most important court in the Nation and should be operating at full strength,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement. “Today we will take a step toward making this Court operate at full strength for the American people.”

Sen. Angus S. King Jr. column: Filibuster reform
(Independent - Maine) 12/06/13
"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. Cirucit & Distract From Obamacare
(Republican - Texas) 12/05/13
"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. Whitehouse Applauds Filibuster Change
(Democrat - Rhode Island) 11/21/13
“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) 11/21/13
"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. King Statement on Vote to Alter Filibuster Rule
(Democrat - Maine) 11/21/13
"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) 11/21/13
“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.”

Senator Coons votes to end gridlock on nominations
(Democrat - Delaware) 11/21/13
“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.”