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Senator Statements

 

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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Nominations of Pamela Chen and Katherine Failla [and Caitlin Halligan]
(Democrat - Vermont) 03/04/13
"Over the past four years, unprecedented obstruction by Senate Republicans has meant that all judicial nominees have become wrapped around the axle of partisanship. ... Senate Republicans have also claimed that President Bush had only 74 percent of his nominees confirmed during his first term. This is also not true. President Bush nominated 231 men and women to serve as circuit and district judges, of them 205 were confirmed. That is a confirmation rate of 89 percent. During President Obama’s first term, only 173 district and circuit judges were confirmed, and a much lower percentage. ... there is no reason to delay further the confirmation of Caitlin Halligan, whose nomination to the D.C. Circuit was first reported nearly two years ago. Senate Republicans justified their filibuster of her nomination a year ago by arguing that the Circuit did not need another judge. Since that time, the number of vacancies on that court has doubled, and it is now more than one-third vacant. It needs Caitlin Halligan. She is the kind of moderate, superbly qualified nominee who should easily be able to be confirmed under any standard by which the Senate has considered judicial nominees in the past. It is well past time to walk back from the precipice marked by the wrongheaded filibuster of Ms. Halligan. The continued filibuster of her nomination does harm to the Senate, to the important D.C. Circuit, and to the American people. ... . For the judicial vacancies in states with two Republican Senators, just 11 percent have a nominee. I urge Senate Republicans to do a better job providing consensus recommendations"

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Robert Bacharach, Caitlin Halligan and Unprecedented Obstruction of Judicial Nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/25/13
"The filibuster of his nomination, which was supported by the Oklahoma Senators who had previously supported the nomination and who will likely reverse themselves again and support confirmation today, was the ne plus ultra of an unprecedented campaign of obstruction Senate Republicans have waged against President Obama's judicial nominees. ... I have not heard a single negative word about him. There is no Senator who opposed his nomination on the merits. He was praised extensively by his home State Senators.... Judge Bacharach is the first circuit court nominee to be filibustered who had received bipartisan support before the Judiciary Committee. Senator Coburn was quoted last year admitting: ``There's no reason why he shouldn't be confirmed.'' There was none other than the obstruction of Senate Republicans.... Senate Republicans have also forced the Majority Leader to file cloture on 30 nominees, which is already in 4 years 50 percent more nominees than had cloture filed during President Bush's eight years in office. Almost all of these 30 nominations were noncontroversial and were ultimately confirmed overwhelmingly. Fewer than 80 percent of President Obama's judicial nominees have been confirmed compared to almost 90 percent of President George W. Bush's nominees at this point in their Presidencies. The record is clear: Senate Republicans have engaged in an unprecedented effort to obstruct President Obama's judicial nominations....The longest pending of these nominations is that of Caitlin Halligan, who the President first nominated to the D.C. Circuit back in 2010. At that time, there were already two vacancies on that court, a number which has now doubled to four. The purported justification for the partisan Republican filibuster of the Halligan nomination was that the circuit did not need another judge. The circuit is now more than one-third vacant and needs several, including Caitlin Halligan."

Sen. Leahy: Republicans Reverse Position, Vote Unanimously To Support Bacharach Nomination . . . GOP Previously Voted To Filibuster Consensus Judicial Pick
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/25/13
“Persistent vacancies force fewer judges to take on growing caseloads, and make it harder for Americans to have access to speedy justice,” Leahy said in a statement for the record. “While Senate Republicans delayed and obstructed, the number of judicial vacancies remained historically high and it has become more difficult for our courts to provide speedy, quality justice for the American people.”

Sen. Leahy: SJC Sends 13 Judicial Nominees To Full Senate
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/14/13
“So far during President Obama’s first four years in office and as far into the future as we can see there have never been less than 60 vacancies, and for much of that time many, many more,” Leahy said. “This is a prescription for overburdened courts and a Federal justice system that does not serve the interests of the American people.”

Sen. Leahy: Senate Votes To Confirm First Judicial Nominee This Year; Kayatta’s Nomination Has Lagged For Ten Months
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/13/13
“While it is good that William Kayatta will finally receive a vote today, it is also well past time for the Senate to vote on Robert Bacharach and Richard Taranto,” Leahy said, noting that two more circuit court nominees are awaiting Senate action. “Perpetuating these vacancies on the Tenth and Federal Circuits, and preventing Judge Bacharach and Mr. Taranto from getting to work on behalf of the American people, does not benefit anyone. ... I hope that this year and over the coming four years, Senate Republicans will end their misguided and harmful obstruction and work with us in a bipartisan manner to do what is right for the country,” Leahy said. “President Obama has nominated qualified, mainstream lawyers, and the Senate should consider them in regular order, without unnecessary delays. That is what we had done for as long as I have served in the Senate, whether the nominations came from a Democratic or a Republican president. We should work together to restore and uphold the best traditions of the Senate.”

Statement of Chairman Patrick Leahy
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/07/13
"This morning we have 16 of the President’s nominees on the agenda for consideration. I hope we can make real progress. I have sought to respect home state Senators, Democrats and Republicans, with respect to judicial nominees within their states. I appreciate Senator Collins’ support for the Kayatta nomination, for example. In fact both home state Senators for all of the judicial nominees on the agenda have indicated their support. We can act on all of these nominations today without further delay."

Sen. Leahy: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Three Circuit Court Nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 02/07/13
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved on Thursday three circuit court nominees who were held over from last year. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) hailed the committee’s action, and called for the full Senate to quickly consider these qualified nominees. “I have sought to respect home state Senators, Democrats and Republicans, with respect to judicial nominees within their states,” Leahy said. “In fact both home state Senators for all of the judicial nominees on the agenda have indicated their support. We can act on all of these nominations today without further delay.”

Sen. Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy Statement on Judicial Nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/23/13
"At a time when judicial vacancies remain damagingly high, we should be acting swiftly to consider and confirm qualified nominees.... judicial vacancies have risen to 83 ... When President Obama began his first term judicial vacancies numbered 55....This is in sharp contrast to the way in which Senate Democrats cooperated in reducing judicial vacancies during President Bush’s first term from over 110 down to 28....Senate Republicans balked and, instead, sent 15 nominees who had completed their hearings back to the White House without final action. President Obama is the first President in decades who ended his first term with more vacancies than when it began, and the first since Woodrow Wilson to complete a full first term without having a nominee to the D.C. Circuit confirmed.... The D.C. Circuit will soon have four vacancies among its reduced, 11-member panel.... The 83 vacancies on our Federal bench at the start of President Obama’s second term is 40 percent higher than the highest number of vacancies that existed during President Bush’s second term. We should be working together to fill these vacancies so that the American people have timely access to justice."

Chairman Leahy Address on Judiciary Committee Agenda [C-SPAN]
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/16/13
“Those who would block judges from coming up even for a vote – I'll say this: Vote yes, or vote no, but when you block them, you're voting maybe. What. An. Irresponsible. Lazy. Thing. To. Do. ... Dozens and dozens and dozens of judicial nominees get held for month after month after month. You know, they've been nominated, they've gone through the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously – basically having to shut down their law practice because they're going to become a federal judge – and then for months and months and months they're in this limbo because we can't bring it to a vote. And then when we finally do bring it to a vote, they get 95 votes, 98 votes, out of 100. No. This is allowing people to vote "maybe," not yes or no. If you really feel strongly about an issue, sure, come on the floor our rules allow you to debate it. But on some of these things – on most of these things – I don't find anybody who feels that strongly about it they're willing to stand up and explain to the American public on C-Span and in the Congressional Record "here's why I'm opposing it," because usually their reasons do not stand the light of day.”

Address By Senator Leahy On "The Agenda Of The Senate Judiciary Committee For The 113th Congress"
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/16/13
"Like Chief Justice Roberts, I believe the extraordinarily high number of extended judicial vacancies has to end. The Judiciary Committee will continue to work to fill these vacancies, many unnecessarily perpetuated, which threaten our justice system."

Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On Chief Justice Roberts’ Year-End Report On The Federal Judiciary
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/31/12
“I echo the Chief Justice’s call for the appointment of qualified judges to fill vacancies in courts throughout the country. Judges play a vital role in our democracy, and languishing vacancies on our courts only threatens the efficiency and effectiveness of that cherished system. In addition to the 27 judicial emergencies that the Chief Justice mentioned, there are scores of other unfilled vacancies on our federal courts. In fact, there are more judicial vacancies now – 75 – than when President Obama was sworn into office four years ago. The nominations of too many qualified judicial nominees have needlessly languished on the Senate calendar, in this Congress, and in the last. As we conclude the session, there are 15 nominees who, having had committee hearings, can and should be confirmed now, not next year. This backlog only puts us further behind next year, and at a time when the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts recommends growing the number of judicial seats nationwide. I hope both the President and both Democrats and Republicans heed Chief Justice Roberts’s call to, as he said in his annual report, ‘act diligently in nominating and confirming highly qualified candidates to fill those vacancies.’ “As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I stand ready to work with members of both parties to address the needs of our Federal courts including advocating for needed resources and pushing for Senate votes on qualified nominees.”

Sen. Leahy Congressional Record Statement on Judicial Nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/21/12
"Senate Republicans have chosen to depart dramatically from Senate traditions in their efforts to delay and obstruct President Obama's judicial nominations. For example, until 2009, Senators deferred to the President and to home State Senators on district court nominees. During the 8 years that George W. Bush served as President, only 5 of his district court nominees received any opposition on the floor. In just 4 years, Senate Republicans have voted against 39 of President Obama's district court nominees, and the Majority Leader has been forced to file cloture on 20 of them. ... When Senate Democrats filibustered President Bush's controversial circuit court nominees, it was over substantive concerns about the nominees' records and Republicans' disregard for the rights of Democratic Senators. When we opposed Janice Rogers Brown, it was because of her long record on the California Supreme Court of deciding cases based on extreme views, and having argued that Social Security was unconstitutional. When we opposed Priscilla Owen, it was because her rulings on the Texas Supreme Court were so extreme that they drew the condemnation of even the conservative judges on that court. On the other hand, Senate Republicans have filibustered and delayed nearly all of President Obama's circuit court nominees even when those nominees have the support of their Republican home State Senators. Take the examples of Judge Robert Bacharach and William Kayatta, two consensus circuit nominees who have the support of their Republican home State Senators. ... neither of these nominees faces any real Republican opposition. ... After today's vote, there will still be 11 judicial nominees on the Senate Executive Calendar, 6 of whom were voted out of the Judiciary Committee before the August recess. There is no reason why we cannot confirm all of them today. I have also been urging Republicans to expedite consideration of the 4 judicial nominees who participated in hearings last Wednesday. That would lead to 11 more confirmations before the Senate adjourns to help address the judicial vacancies that currently exist in our Federal courts."

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On the Nominations of Fernando Olguin and Thomas Durkin
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/17/12
"More than twice the number of judicial vacancies exists compared to the vacancies left at the end of President Bush’s first term. The Senate should be voting on all 16 of the judicial nominees reported to the Senate by the Judiciary Committee. I have also been urging Republicans to expedite consideration of the four judicial nominees who participated in hearings last Wednesday. That would lead to 20 more confirmations before the Senate adjourns later this month. Historically, the Senate has confirmed hundreds of judicial nominees within 14 days of their Judiciary Committee hearings, including more than 600 confirmed since World War II within just one week of their hearings. In contrast, obstruction by Senate Republicans has caused President Obama’s district court nominees to wait an average of 103 days for a Senate vote after being reported by the Judiciary Committee... . Senate Republicans are holding up is that of Judge Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma to the Tenth Circuit, who they filibustered earlier this year. Senator Coburn, one of his home state Senators, said: “He has no opposition in the Senate. . . . There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be confirmed.” That also applies to Richard Taranto, who was reported more than eight months ago to a vacancy on the Federal Circuit. That applies to William Kayatta of Maine, who was reported nearly eight months ago and has the support of his two home state Republican Senators."

Senate Approves Two District Court Nominees, 16 Judicial Nominees Awaiting Consideration
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/13/12
Sen. Leahy: “The judges whose confirmations Senate Republicans are delaying are not nominees they will oppose on the merits. They are by and large consensus nominees.”

Sen. Leahy Statement at Judicial Nominations Hearing
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/12/12
"Despite my solicitousness, our Republican members would not agree to move forward with the nomination of Srikanth Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit. His nomination was received last June and I would have liked to have proceeded with his hearing without further delay. Since there will soon be four vacancies on this important court, it makes no sense to me for us to wait-especially in light of the Republican filibuster of the President's earlier nominee to this Circuit. I appreciate that the Republicans members have agreed that they will be ready to proceed on that nomination at our first confirmation hearing next month, in January of the new Congress. Regrettably, Senate Republicans continue their practice of requiring the Senate to extend consideration of nominees over two years."

Sen. Leahy: The Senate Must Clear The Nominations Backlog
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/12/12
In a statement for the record at Wednesday’s hearing, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) observed that the Senate remains far behind the pace set in earlier administrations in confirming judicial nominees, particularly those nominated to circuit court seats. As of Wednesday, 18 judicial nominees remain pending on the Senate calendar, including 11 that would fill emergency vacancies. Of the 18 nominations pending on the Senate floor, four circuit court nominees were reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee before the August recess. Leahy has urged the Senate to clear the backlog of nominations before the Congress adjourns later this month. “We will not begin to approach the 205 confirmations we achieved during President Bush’s first term by the end of this President’s first term nor will we reduce vacancies significantly,” Leahy said in a statement. “President Obama may be the first President to end his first term with higher judicial vacancies – due solely to obstruction – than when he became President. This is bad for our Federal courts and for the American people who depend on them for justice.” ... “It is past time to confirm this nominee,” Leahy said. “Now that Senator Vitter has indicated, after an eight-month delay, that he supports the nomination, we should expedite Senate consideration.”

Sen. Leahy: The Senate Must Consider All Pending Judicial Nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/11/12
“Both of these nominees were voted out of the Judiciary Committee by voice vote before the August recess and should have been confirmed months ago,” Leahy said of John Dowdell, nominated to a district court seat in Oklahoma and Jesus Bernal, nominated to a district court seat in California. “These confirmations today will demonstrate that there was no good reason for the delay—just more partisan delay for delay’s sake.” Bernal’s confirmation fills one of 34 emergency vacancies throughout the country. Of the 13 pending district court nominees on the Senate calendar, 11 would fill emergency vacancy seats. The four circuit court nominees have been pending as far back as March, and two of those, William Kayatta of Maine and Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma, enjoy the support of their Republican home state Senators. “With the American people’s reelection of President Obama there is no good purpose to be served by this further delay,” Leahy said. “But Robert Bacharach and nearly a dozen judicial nominees, who could be confirmed and who would fill four circuit court vacancies and five additional judicial emergency vacancies, are being forced to wait until next year – or perhaps forever – by the Senate Republican leadership.”

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On the Nomination of Judge Paul William Grimm to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland
(Democrat - Vermont) 12/03/12
With just a few short weeks before the end of the year and 18 more judicial nominees still pending, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement for the Congressional Record that Senate Republicans must stop their delay tactics and follow Senate tradition by approving these nominees during the lame duck session

SJC Chairman Leahy Calls For Consideration Of Judicial Nominees In Lameduck
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/30/12
Sen. Patrick Leahy Press Release and Cong. Record Statement: Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), in a Congressional Record statement published Friday, highlighted the list of judicial nominees who have been pending on the Senate calendar as far back as March. While those nominees continue to wait, the number of judicial vacancies nationwide hovers at 80. Leahy called on Republicans to drop unfounded opposition and follow the precedent of previous lameduck sessions after presidential elections, when the Senate has confirmed every single judicial nominee reported by the Judiciary Committee, and with bipartisan support.

Senator Patrick Leahy Floor Statement On Judicial Nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/14/12
"Even Senate Republicans’ contorted application of the Thurmond Rule can no longer serve as any sort of rationale for inaction. Delay for delay’s sake is wrong and should end. The Senate should start by acting on the 19 judicial nominations that have been approved by the Judiciary Committee and have been awaiting final Senate action without further delay. Two months ago, the Senate recessed without taking action on 19 judicial nominations. All were supported by their home state Senators, Republican and Democratic. Almost all had bipartisan support. I cannot remember a time when the Senate refused to act on nominees with such bipartisan support. There was no precedent for the filibuster of Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma to the Tenth Circuit and that filibuster should end. After Senator Coburn failed to vote for cloture to end the filibuster of the Bacharach nomination last July, he indicated that he expected Judge Bacharach to be confirmed before the end of the year if President Obama was reelected. The junior Senator from Texas also indicated that the circuit judges would be voted on if President Obama was reelected. ... "the Republican Senators from Oklahoma have said that they support Robert Bacharach, and the Republican Senators from Maine strongly support William Kayatta. It is unprecedented to have this many consensus judicial nominees not acted upon before the election recess in a presidential election year. After the midterm election in 2002, Senate Democrats worked with Senate Republicans to confirm 20 of President Bush’s judicial nominees in one week, including 18 in just one day. Again, in 2010, the Senate proceeded to confirm 19 judicial nominees during the lameduck session after the election. Unfortunately, Republican delays in 2010 had backlogged 38 judicial nominees and the confirmations of 19 went only half-way to what we should have done. When Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were President, Senate Democrats cleared the calendar of all but the most controversial and extreme ideological judicial nominations."

Sen. Leahy on delayed confirmation of Ohio and other federal judges
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/23/12
"Leahy also complained about Senate Republicans delaying the confirmation of Obama's judicial appointments. He said it took and enormous amount of "arm-twisting" by Brown to get Benita Pearson and Jeffrey Helmick confirmed as federal judges in Ohio."

Sen. Leahy: Senate Republicans Leave Town After Blocking Dozens Of Judicial Nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/24/12
“We all know that justice delayed is justice denied. By denying confirmation votes to 15 of these 17 nominations, Senate Republicans are denying justice to the American people,” Leahy said. “By refusing to vote on these 15 nominations, Senate Republicans have declared that they are unconcerned about the millions of Americans who will continue to lack adequate access to our Federal courts and speedy justice.” “Senate Republicans have not explained their unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s consensus nominees, they just try to pretend it does not exist,” Leahy said. “The American people know better, and they deserve better.”

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Unanimous Consent Requests for Votes on District Court Nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/20/12
"Senate Republicans have raised the level of partisanship so that these Federal trial court nominees have now become wrapped around the axle of partisanship. Despite a vacancy crisis that threatens the ability of Federal courts to provide justice for the American people, Senate Republicans now refuse to allow a vote on any of the 17 pending district court nominees, including 12 that have been declared judicial emergency vacancies. Senate Republicans' across-the-board obstruction of President Obama's judicial nominees that began with their filibuster of his very first nominee continues. For the first time I can recall, even district court nominees with support from Republican home State Senators face months of delay if not outright opposition from the Senate Republican leadership and Senate Republicans. The long delays and backlog we are seeing on the Federal trial courts and Senate Republicans' refusal to vote on so many consensus judicial nominees before we recess for the upcoming Presidential election are entirely without precedent. The Thurmond rule has never been applied to stop votes on consensus district court nominees. In September 2008 we reported and confirmed 10 of President Bush's district court nominees and left none on the Senate calendar as we headed into that Presidential election. In contrast, this year we are still waiting on votes for district court nominees reported by the Judiciary Committee in April, June, July, and August. All but 1 of these 17 district court nominees was reported with significant bipartisan support, all but 3 nearly unanimously. ... I urge Senator Toomey, Senator Kirk, Senator Rubio, Senator Coburn, Senator Inhofe, Senator Hatch, Senator Lee, Senator Collins and Senator Snowe, all of whom have judicial nominees on the calendar ready for a final Senate vote, to reason with their leadership about this obstruction. I ask other Republican Senators who know better to weigh in with their leadership."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Obstruction of Judicial Nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/20/12
"I have served in the Senate for 37 years, and I have never seen so many judicial nominees, reported with bipartisan support, be denied a simple up-or-down vote for 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, even 11 months. And if there was any doubt that Senate Republicans insist on being the party of no, their current decision to deny votes on these highly qualified, noncontroversial district court nominees--while we are in the middle of a judicial vacancy crisis--shows what they stand for. They care more about opposing this President than helping the American people."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy Criticizes Unprecedented Partisan Obstruction Of Consensus District Court Picks
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/20/12
Senate Republicans objected today to approving the 17 district court nominees who have been pending on the Senate calendar since as far back as April, including those who enjoy the support of their home state Republican Senators. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has repeatedly called for the Senate to clear the backlog of nominations, and criticized the partisan obstruction of consensus picks today