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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


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Senator Statements

 

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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Nomination of Cornelia “Nina” Pillard
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/12/13
"Confirming these two highly qualified nominees is the right thing to do and it will make history--once these two extraordinary women are confirmed, the D.C. Circuit will be the first Federal appellate court in our country to have an equal number of women serving as judges as men. ...In 2003, the Senate unanimously confirmed John Roberts by voice vote to be the ninth judge on the D.C. Circuit – at a time when its caseload was lower than it is today – and, in fact, his confirmation marked the lowest caseload level per judge on the D.C. Circuit in 20 years. Not a single Senate Republican raised any concerns about whether the caseload warranted his confirmation, and during the Bush administration, they voted to fill four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit – giving the court a total of 11 judges in active service. Today there are only eight judges on the court. ... In 2003, the Senate unanimously confirmed John Roberts by voice vote to be the ninth judge on the D.C. Circuit – at a time when its caseload was lower than it is today – and, in fact, his confirmation marked the lowest caseload level per judge on the D.C. Circuit in 20 years. Not a single Senate Republican raised any concerns about whether the caseload warranted his confirmation, and during the Bush administration, they voted to fill four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit – giving the court a total of 11 judges in active service. Today there are only eight judges on the court. ... The D.C. Circuit should be operating at full strength as it was when President Bush held office. ... If the Republican caucus continues to abuse the filibuster rules and obstruct the President’s fine nominees to the D.C. Circuit, then I believe this body will need to consider anew whether a rules change should be in order."

Sen. Leahy Calls On Senate Republicans To End Filibuster Of Highly Qualified Circuit Court Nominee
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/12/13
"“Like Caitlin Halligan, and like Patricia Millett, I am confident that Nina Pillard would be confirmed if Republicans would stop filibustering and allow an up or down vote on her nomination,” Leahy said in a floor statement. “If Republicans vote in lock step to continue their filibuster against Nina Pillard, Senate Republicans will have blocked three outstanding women in a row from being confirmed to what is considered the second highest court in our country.”

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Woods and Brown district court nominations, vacancies, and GOP filibusters and home-state Senator delay of nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/04/13
"If confirmed, Ms. Brown would be the first African-American woman to serve as a Federal judge in Mississippi. I am proud that together we will reach a landmark moment in diversity on the Federal bench, and I commend President Obama, Senator Wicker, and Senator Cochran for their important efforts. ... We have more than 90 judicial vacancies, and 37 of these vacancies have been designated as emergency vacancies due to high caseloads by the nonpartisan Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.... there was a lot of talk by Senate Republicans that Senate Democrats should be concerned with filling judicial emergency vacancies rather than the DC Circuit, which they claim does not need more judges. We all know that their arguments about the DC Circuit have nothing to do with caseload and everything to do with the political party of the President nominating.... if the filibuster rules continue to be abused by my Republican colleagues I will have no option but to reconsider my longstanding opposition to such a change.... nearly half of the emergency vacancies are empty because of Republican obstruction. First, there are 15 judicial nominees pending before the full Senate, including 7 nominees who would fill judicial emergency vacancies if the Republicans would allow us to vote on them today ... Much of these delay tactics occur earlier in the process,... In fact, there are judicial emergency vacancies that have persisted for years because certain Republican Senators refuse to either return their blue slip or provide a recommendation to the President."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Senate treatment of GW Bush and Obama D.C. Circuit Nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 11/04/13
"I would note that when President Bush nominated John Roberts for the ninth seat to the DC Circuit, he was confirmed by every single Republican and Democrat voting for him. Patricia Millett, with exactly the same credentials as he for the Ninth seat, was filibustered by the Republicans. Were they treated differently? Yes."

Chairman Leahy Statement on D.C. Circuit Vacancies and Nominees at Judiciary Committee Business Meeting
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/31/13
"When President Bush held office, there were no objections to confirming John Roberts to the D.C. Circuit, when the court’s caseload, measured by pending appeals per active judge, was reduced to its lowest level in the past 20 years. The Senate then confirmed three more of President Bush’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit: Janice Rogers Brown, Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh. These nominees filled the tenth, eleventh, and again the tenth seats, and not a single Senate Republican raised any concern about whether those judges were truly needed. Patricia Millett is nominated to the seat that John Roberts vacated, the ninth seat.... This past July , the Senate voted unanimously to confirm Wyoming Attorney General Gregory Phillips to the Tenth Circuit. With his confirmation, the number of pending appeals per active judge on that court dropped from 150 to 135. The D.C. Circuit currently has 185 pending appeals per active judge. Despite that higher caseload, some Senate Republicans argue that the D.C. Circuit’s caseload is too low, and that three of its judgeships should be eliminated."

Sen. Leahy: Senate Panel Approves Nomination To D.C. Circuit; Wilkins Would Fill Third Vacancy On Court
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/31/13
“Later today the Senate will vote on whether to end a filibuster against another nominee to the D.C. Circuit, Patricia Millett. In the course of that debate, I have heard Republicans argue that the D.C. Circuit does not need any more judges,” Leahy said. “History shows that these Republican arguments have nothing to do with caseload and everything to do with the party of the president.”

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Nomination of Patricia Millett to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/31/13
"No student of history can honestly say that nominating candidates to existing vacancies is court-packing. ... by the time Peter Keisler was nominated, four of President Bush’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit had been confirmed. Only one of President Obama’s nominees to this court has been confirmed and another has been filibustered. Mr. Keisler was nominated to the 11th seat on the D.C. Circuit – and would have marked the fifth time a President Bush nominee was confirmed the court and the second time a Bush nominee was confirmed to be the 11th judge on the court. At that time, Democrats noted the hypocrisy of Republicans pushing to confirm a second judge to the 11th seat on the D.C. Circuit after they had blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination in 1996 to be the 11th judge. ... he circuit court with the lowest caseload is actually the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which as of June 30, 2013, has 1,341 total pending appeals and 134 pending appeals per active judge. In contrast, the D.C. Circuit has 1,479 total pending appeals and 185 pending appeals per active judge....If Ms. McHugh and Ms. Moritz are both confirmed, the Tenth Circuit will be at full strength with 12 active judges. ...Some have also cited the D.C. Circuit’s six senior judges as a reason to filibuster Patricia Millett’s nomination. Of course, the Tenth Circuit has 10 senior judges,"

Leahy: Senate Should Confirm Millett To The D.C. Circuit Court; “She deserves to be considered on her merits”
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/30/13
"Through her legal work, Ms. Millett has earned broad bipartisan support. This includes the support of Peter Keisler, Carter Phillips, Kenneth Starr, Theodore Olson and Paul Clement and a bipartisan group of 110 appellate practitioners, as well as 37 Deputy Solicitors General and Assistants to the Solicitor General from both Republican and Democratic administrations. She is supported by both the National President of the National Fraternal Order of Police and the Deputy Commissioner of the New York Police Department. Ms. Millet has the support of the military community including Major General Clark H. McNair, Jr., U.S. Army, Retired; Michael Hall, Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army, Retired; Blue Star Families; and the Gallant Few."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Judicial nominations, vacancies and funding
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/14/13
"One critical problem is that we have more than 90 judicial vacancies, including 39 that have been designated as emergency vacancies due to high caseloads by the non-partisan Administrative Office of the Courts. While we will vote to confirm two additional judges today, we are moving far too slowly and are not keeping pace with the urgent needs of our Federal judiciary. We must do better.... there remain far too many judicial vacancies. Because of the government shutdown, we have been unable to hold hearings, process, and approve nominees in the Judiciary Committee for the last two weeks. It does our country a serious injustice when we fail to provide our Federal courts with the resources it needs."

Sen. Patrick Leahy Floor Statement on Judicial Nominations
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/07/13
"While I am pleased that we are finally getting to vote on these nominees, voting on just 2 of the 13 judicial nominees currently pending on the floor is not enough to make real progress in reducing the vacancies on our Federal courts. Our Federal judicial vacancies currently number more than 90, including 39 that have been designated as emergency vacancies due to high caseloads by the non-partisan Administrative Office of the Courts. There is no good reason for us to not get back to what used to be the regular order in the Senate of taking up and confirming consensus nominees within days of being reported out of Committee. We need to get these talented men and women off the Senate calendar and into the courtroom so they can get to work on behalf of the American people."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement On the Impact of the Shutdown on the Judiciary & Government Transparency
(Democrat - Vermont) 10/05/13
"[W]ith the ongoing shutdown of the entire federal government, a handful of ideologues in the House of Representatives are holding the entire judicial system hostage and this threatens our entire democracy. Earlier this year, in the face of sequestration, a group of 87 federal district judges warned that sustained budget cuts “have forced us to slash our operations to the bone, and we believe that our constitutional duties, public safety, and the quality of the justice system will be profoundly compromised by any further cuts.” Now, thanks to the Republican shutdown, according to a letter to all Federal courts from Judge John Bates, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the Judiciary will only be able to remain open for approximately 10 business days into October."

Sen. Leahy: Senate Votes To Confirm Federal Circuit Court Nominee; Hughes The First Openly Gay Judge To Serve On Appellate Court
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/24/13
"I am proud that today the Senate is finally taking this critical step to break down another barrier and increase diversity on our Federal bench.... Mr. Hughes’ nomination was reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee more than two months ago and could—and in my view should—have been confirmed within days. At a time when judicial vacancies are once again above 90, this kind of needless delay undermines the serious work we have to do to ensure the ability of our Federal courts to provide justice to Americans around the country. In addition to Mr. Hughes, we have 13 other Federal circuit and district nominees pending on the Executive Calendar. Of those nominees, 11 were reported by voice vote and there is no good reason to not confirm them today."

Sen. Leahy Statement on On the Nominations of Patricia Campbell-Smith and Elaine Kaplan [and more]
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/16/13
"There is no good reason why we could not also vote to confirm the consensus and noncontroversial Article III nominees on the Calendar. One effect of these unnecessary delays is that for the first time in nearly two years, our Federal district courts are again facing what the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service calls “historically high” vacancies. This means that there are now more seats empty on the districts courts than there were during 90 percent of the time during the 34 years after the Ford Administration."

Sen. Leahy Statement at Judicial Nominations hearing
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/11/13
"In 1984 Senate Republicans had no problem voting to create a twelfth seat on the D.C. Circuit, and then voting to confirm President Reagan’s and President George H.W. Bush’s nominees to that seat. When Bill Clinton, a Democratic president, nominated Merrick Garland to the twelfth seat, Senate Republicans suddenly had an epiphany that the twelfth seat was unnecessary and should not be filled. Later, Senate Republicans continued to oppose the confirmation of Judge Garland even for his nomination to fill the eleventh seat. It is quite astonishing that Senate Republicans continue to recycle these arguments every time a Democratic President is in office. Now they say that only eight seats are needed. ... This effort to manipulate the size of an important court in order to achieve political goals is simply wrong. Just as President Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme was rejected in 1937 by the Judiciary Committee and the Senate, the Senate should reject this attempt to politicize the D.C. Circuit. The filibuster threats against President Obama’s well-qualified nominees are purely political, and they are unworthy of this chamber."

Sen. Leahy Statement on Federal Judgeship Act of 2013 [and on need to fill D.C. Circuit vacancies]
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/10/13
"The last time Congress passed a comprehensive judgeships bill was 1990, when 85 new judgeships were created.... The Coons-Leahy bill reflectsthe current judgeship recommendations of the Judicial Conference of the United States, whose presiding officer is Chief Justice John Roberts. ... Republican bill, S. 699, would eliminate one Federal judgeship altogether, while moving one to the Second Circuit and another to the Eleventh Circuit, even though neither circuit has actually requested additional judgeships. This would reduce the D.C. Circuit to only eight judgeships.It is disappointing that all eight Republican Senators on this Committee are supporters of this judgeship stripping bill, even though they have voted a combined 42 times to confirm Republican presidents’ nominees to the same seats they now seek to remove."

Senator Patrick Leahy Statement On the Nominations of Valerie Caproni & Vernon Broderick, delay & obstruction of judicial nominations and confirmations, and need for new judgeships
(Democrat - Vermont) 09/09/13
"The Republicans’ effort to obstruct and delay the confirmations of nominees means that over the course of President Obama’s administration the number of judicial vacancies nearly doubled. In January 2009, there were 53 Federal district and appellate court vacancies. Today, there are 94 Federal district and appellate court vacancies—37 of which have been designated as judicial emergency vacancies by the non-partisan Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts....Tomorrow, Senator Coons will chair another hearing in that Subcommittee to evaluate the judgeship needs of Federal courts across the country and hear testimony on the Coons-Leahy Federal Judgeship Act of 2013, which would implement the Judicial Conference’s recommendations for desperately-needed new judgeships."

Sen. Leahy Statement On the Nomination of Raymond Chen [and on other judicial nominees]
(Democrat - Vermont) 08/09/13
"Today, the Senate confirms the 200th of President Obama’s circuit and district nominees. Thanks to Senate Republicans’ concerted effort to filibuster, obstruct and delay his moderate judicial nominees, it took almost one year longer to reach this milestone than it did when his Republican predecessor was serving as President, over 10 months in fact. ... So the Republicans’ effort to obstruct and delay the confirmations of President Obama’s nominees means that we have essentially not been permitted to make any net progress in filling vacancies. We have barely kept up with attrition.... compared to the same point in the Bush administration, there have been more nominees filibustered, fewer confirmations, and longer wait times for nominees, even though President Obama has nominated more people and there are more vacancies. ... I hope that Senate Republicans will end their misguided attempt to strip the D.C. Circuit of three seats and that we will be allowed to consider her nomination on the merits of the nominee.... In addition to the 87 current vacancies, the Judicial Conference has identified the need for 91 new judgeships, so that the people who live in the busiest districts can nonetheless have access to speedy justice. Earlier this week, Senator Coons and I introduced a bill to create those judgeships... Eleven of the twelve circuit and district nominees currently pending before the Senate were reported by voice vote. There is no reason we cannot consider all 12 today."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Pending Judicial Nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 08/01/13
"I believe we should act quickly on a number of judicial vacancies. Eleven of the twelve circuit and district nominees currently pending before the Senate were reported by voice vote. All Democrats, all Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted together. There is no reason why we couldn't consider all 12 today, along with Mr. Chen. If we work together, then we can fulfill the needs of the Federal judiciary."

Sen. Leahy: SJC Sends D.C. Circuit Nominee to Full Senate
(Democrat - Vermont) 08/01/13
“The D.C. Circuit decides some of the most important cases in our nation, with significant impact on the lives of all Americans. This court must be allowed to operate at full strength, and to that end, I applaud the Judiciary Committee’s approval of Patricia Millett’s nomination today,” said Leahy, who also discussed the importance of the D.C. Circuit in a floor statement [LINK] in June.

Sen. Leahy on pending D.C. Circuit nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 07/30/13
“They’re the most qualified men and women who’ve come up, and I cannot think of any reason why such qualified men and women should be turned down,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told TPM on Tuesday. “So if they’re blocked you should be asking the Republicans because they’re the most qualified people in years — and far more qualified than the ones that the Republicans supported.”

Sen. Leahy introduces bill to create 91 new judgeships
(Democrat - Vermont) 07/30/13
“Federal judges are working harder than ever, but in order to maintain the integrity of the Federal courts and the expediency that justice demands, judges must have a manageable workload,” Senator Leahy said. “This good government bill will improve the effectiveness of our Federal courts and provide Federal judges with the resources to promptly render the justice that Americans so desperately need and deserve.”

Sen. Leahy Statement at Nominations Hearing
(Democrat - Vermont) 07/24/13
"Republican members of the Committee made comments about the history of this Committee’s consideration of nominees to the D.C. Circuit that were misleading at best. It is simply inaccurate to suggest that there is any comparison between a 2006 letter sent by Committee Democrats expressing concerns about a particular nominee and the current cynical effort by Committee Republicans to strip the D.C. Circuit of 3 of its 11 judgeships. The 2006 letter made reference solely to the eleventh judgeship, and the caseload issue was raised, in addition to several substantive concerns about the nominee, only to point out the double-standard of Committee Republicans, who had blocked and opposed President Clinton’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit’s eleventh seat, even though the caseload was higher during the Clinton administration than in the Bush administration. ... Senate Republicans then had no problem filling the eleventh seat and bringing the caseload to 121 pending appeals per active judge when a Republican president was making the nominations. But now that the caseload has again risen, to 177 pending appeals per active judge, suddenly some Senate Republicans have decided that the eleventh, the tenth, and now even the ninth seats should not be filled, at least not by a Democratic president. The double-standard is obvious. ... No Senate Democrat opposed the May 2003 confirmation of John Roberts to the D.C. Circuit, even though it brought the caseload all the way down to its lowest level in the past 20 years –111 pending appeals per active judge."

Sen. Leahy Statement on Judicial Nominations at Hearing
(Democrat - Vermont) 07/10/13
"Patricia Millett, who is nominated to one of three vacancies on the District of Columbia Circuit, has distinguished herself as an appellate advocate who served in the Office of the Solicitor General under both President Clinton and President Bush. She has argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court, and another 36 before Federal courts of appeal. She is also no stranger to this Committee, having testified here in 2008 at the request of Committee Republicans. Earlier this week, the Senate voted unanimously to confirm Wyoming Attorney General Gregory Phillips to the Tenth Circuit. With his confirmation, the number of pending appeals per active judge on that court dropped from 150 to 135. The D.C. Circuit currently has 177 pending appeals per active judge."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement on Jennifer Dorsey and other Judicial Nominees
(Democrat - Vermont) 07/09/13
"In addition to the 33 renominations at the start of this year, President Obama has nominated another 28 individuals to be circuit and district judges this year, and has now had more nominees at this point in his presidency than his predecessor did at the same point. Senate Republicans are nonetheless criticizing President Obama for making too few nominations while protesting that the fact that many vacancies do not have nominees cannot possibly be the fault of Senate Republicans. These Senators are saying that they have no role in the process. Of course, only a few years ago, before President Obama had made a single judicial nomination, all Senate Republicans sent him a letter threatening to filibuster his nominees if he did not consult Republican home State Senators. They cannot have it both ways."

Sen. Leahy: Nominees Deserve Senate Attention
(Democrat - Vermont) 07/08/13
"With the confirmation of Attorney General Phillips, there will be 10 active judges on the Tenth Circuit. According to the most recent data, this means that the number of pending appeals per active judge on that court will drop from 150 to 135. I mention this because another appellate court, the D.C. Circuit, currently has 177 pending appeals per active judge. Despite that higher caseload, some Senate Republicans argue that the D.C. Circuit’s caseload is too low, and that three of its judgeships should be eliminated. I suspect that many, if not all, of these Senators will vote to confirm Attorney General Phillips, even though his confirmation means that the Tenth Circuit will now have the lowest caseload in the country, just as earlier this year they supported the confirmation of Jane Kelly to the Eighth Circuit, which gave that court the lowest caseload in the country."

SEN. LEAHY FLOOR STATEMENT ON NOMINATION OF GREGORY ALAN PHILLIPS TO BE UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT
(Democrat - Vermont) 07/08/13
"Before the Memorial Day recess, the minority leader asked during a floor debate when Gregory Phillips, the Wyoming nominee to the Tenth Circuit, would receive a vote. When the majority leader immediately offered a vote on that nominee, the minority leader demurred without giving any reason. Senate Republicans have now finally decided to allow the vote ... Unfortunately, in some States it appears as if there is no effort being made to recommend qualified nominees to the administration. There are three district vacancies in Georgia without nominees, and the oldest is over 4 years old. There are three district vacancies in Kentucky without nominees, and the oldest is over a year and a half old. There are seven district vacancies in Texas without nominees, and the oldest is over 4 1/2 years old. Three months ago the Senators from Texas announced a nominations commission, but it is my understanding that it is still not accepting applications. If Senators want new judgeships in their States, they should be working especially hard to ensure that all existing ones are filled. Republican Senators who demanded to be consulted on nominations should live up to their responsibilities and fulfill their constitutional obligation to advise the President on nominations. They should follow the example of Democratic Senators: the administration has received recommendations for all current district vacancies in States represented by two Democratic Senators.... The continued assertion by Senate Republicans that 99 percent of President Obama's nominees have been confirmed is not accurate. ... The truth is that 92 percent of President Bush's judicial nominees had been confirmed at the same point, 11 percentage points more than have been allowed for President Obama."

Sen. Leahy Floor Statement On the Nominations of Judge Luis Restrepo and Kenneth Gonzales
(Democrat - Vermont) 06/17/13
"After waiting 98 days for a vote, Judge Alejandro and Judge Schmehl were confirmed unanimously last week. Today, after another unnecessary delay, the Senate will finally vote on the nomination of Judge Luis Restrepo, more than 100 days after he was voted out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously. When the Senate is finally allowed to act, we will confirm a judge to fill a four-year vacancy.... only nine confirmations have taken place this year that are not attributable to those nominations Senate Republicans held over from last year and that could and should have taken place last year."

Sen. Leahy: D.C. Circuit Court Nominees To Appear Before SJC Next Month
(Democrat - Vermont) 06/17/13
"I plan to include the nomination of Patricia Millett of Virginia, which should have broad bipartisan support, in our July 10 confirmation hearing.... Senate Republicans are even proposing to eliminate those D.C. Circuit judgeships legislatively. Their claims of concern about the caseloads of the Second and Eleventh Circuits – but not the most overburdened Ninth Circuit – are difficult to reconcile with their votes for President Bush’s D.C. Circuit nominees.... I wonder where their concern about the caseload of the Eleventh Circuit was when they needlessly delayed the confirmation of Beverly Martin for four months, or when they needlessly delayed the confirmation of Adalberto Jordan for four months and forced a cloture vote before his confirmation. I am prepared to help alleviate concern about the caseload of the Eleventh Circuit by scheduling a hearing on the nomination of Jill Pryor, a “well qualified” nominee from Georgia to the Court, if her home State Senators would return their blue slips indicating that they do not object to her nomination going forward.... When Senate Republicans get serious about ensuring our Federal courts are adequately staffed, I am more than happy to work with them on a long-overdue judgeship bill. But this selective concern about the D.C. Circuit, and the fact that in 2008 the minority blocked a Judiciary Committee hearing on “The Growing Need for Federal Judgeships,” does not reflect such seriousness."

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Nominations of Judge Nitza Quiñones Alejandro and Judge Jeffrey Schmehl
(Democrat - Vermont) 06/13/13
"The recent assertion by Senate Republicans that 99 percent of President Obama’s nominees have been confirmed is just not accurate. He has nominated 237 individuals to be circuit or district judges, and 193 have been confirmed. That is 81 percent. By way of comparison, at the same point in President Bush’s second term, June 13 of his fifth year in office, President Bush had nominated four fewer people, but had seen 214 of them confirmed, or 92 percent. That is an apples to apples comparison, and it demonstrates the undeniable fact that the Senate has confirmed a lower number and lower percentage of President Obama’s nominees than President Bush’s nominees at the same time in their presidencies."