Leahy: Americans Deserve Courts Ready To Serve, Not Unexplained Confirmation Delays
[The Senate is currently in post-cloture debate on the nomination of Judge Adalberto Jordan to be a judge on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Cloture was invoked Monday night by an overwhelming vote of 89-5. A Republican objection has prevented the Senate from yielding back time on the cloture motion, and so has prevented a final vote on confirmation.]
Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On the Nomination Of Judge Adalberto Jordan To The Eleventh Circuit
February 14, 2012
Republican Senators delayed a final vote on the nomination of Judge Adalberto Jordan of Florida even though the Senate voted 89-5 last night to end a Republican filibuster that has already prevented a vote for four months. This is a consensus nominee who Senator Nelson has been strongly supporting and who Senator Rubio also supports. He should have been confirmed four months ago. He should have been confirmed last night after the overwhelming cloture vote. Instead, obstruction needlessly delayed the Senate acting to fill the emergency judicial vacancy on the Eleventh Circuit.
Senator Nelson has worked hard for this nomination, working to get Judge Jordan’s nomination cleared by every Democratic Senators in October immediately after it was reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee. We were ready to vote in October. We were ready to vote in November. We were ready to vote before the end of the last session of Congress in December. It is hard to believe that it is now the middle of February, over four months after Judge Jordan’s nomination was reported with the support of every Democrat and every Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and the Senate still has not voted to fill this judicial emergency vacancy affecting the people of Florida, Georgia and Alabama. I appreciate why Senator Nelson is frustrated. I understand why Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary and the Hispanic National Bar Association are, too.
Let me refer to some of the reporting on this. One post begins:
“So, here’s the absurdity of our judicial confirmation process – the full Senate voted 89-5 to invoke cloture, meaning that Judge Jordan’s nomination to the 11th Circuit would finally come to a vote. But then Senator Nelson said that one Senator is holding up the merits vote by demanding 30 more hours of ‘debate’ post-cloture. Senators Leahy and Boxer both then commented how ridiculous such a request was, but that’s the way it is. It looks like we’ll have [to] wait another 30 hours for Judge Jordan to move up to the 11th. Silliness in our Congress . . . .”
The article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports:
“South Florida lawyers praise him. Both of Florida’s U.S. senators have recommended him. And the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to approve his nomination.
But U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan of South Florida has been blocked for four months from rising to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the latest sign of a polarized and dysfunctional Senate.
A Senate filibuster that has kept Jordan waiting and the appellate court undermanned fizzled on Monday when the Senate voted 89-5 to move toward a final confirmation vote.
But Jordan is still waiting because one senator . . . objected to attempts to complete action on Monday . . . .”
I have not heard from any Republican Senators objecting to this Judge explaining what they find wrong with this highly-qualified Cuban American. I am at a loss as to why Republican Senators continue to delay a vote on this outstanding nominee. This nominee is beyond reproach. This is another nomination battle that has nothing to do with the nominee and his qualifications. This is another example of obstruction based on a collateral objective. The people of Florida, Georgia and Alabama should not be made to suffer a judicial emergency vacancy when this highly-qualified nominee should be confirmed without further delay. Nor did anyone come forward to explain the Senate Republicans’ delay for the last four months. Cloture has been invoked by the Senate and the filibuster will be ended. There was no good reason to continue to hold up a vote that has already been delayed for four months.
When I first became Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 2001, I followed a time when Senate Republicans, who had been in the majority, had pocket filibustered more than 60 of President Clinton’s judicial nominations, blocking them with secret holds in backrooms and cloakrooms, obstructing more with winks and nods, but with little to no public explanation or accountability. I worked hard to change that and to open up the process. I sought to bring daylight to the process by making the consultation with home state Senators public so that the Senate Republicans’ abuses during the Clinton years would not be repeated.
When Senate Democrats opposed some of President Bush’s most ideological nominees, we did so openly, saying why we opposed them. And when there were consensus nominees—nominees with the support of both Democrats and Republicans-- we moved them quickly so they could begin serving the American people. That is how we reduced vacancies in the presidential election years of 2004 and 2008 to the lowest levels in decades. That is how we confirmed 205 of President Bush’s judicial nominees in his first term.
Now we see the reverse of how we treated President Bush’s nominees. Senate Republicans do not move quickly to consider consensus nominees, like the 15 still on the Senate Calendar that were reported unanimously last year and should have had a Senate vote last year. Instead, as we are seeing today and have seen all too often, Senate Republicans obstruct and delay even consensus nominees, leaving us 45 judicial nominees behind the pace we set for confirming President Bush’s judicial nominees. That is why vacancies remain so high, at 86, over three years into President Obama’s first term. Vacancies are nearly double what they were at this point in President Bush’s third year. That is why half of all Americans—nearly 160 million—live in circuits or districts with a judicial vacancy that could have a judge if Senate Republicans would only consent to vote on judicial nominees that have been favorably voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee and have been on the Senate Executive Calendar since last year.
This is an area where we should be working for the American people, and putting their needs first. This is a nomination that has the strong and committed support of the senior Senator from Florida, Senator Nelson, as well as that of Senator Rubio, Florida’s Republican Senator. Judge Jordan had the unanimous support of every Republican and every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee when we voted last October, although one Republican switched his vote last night to support the filibuster of Judge Jordan’s nomination. This is the nomination of a judge, Judge Jordan, who was confirmed to the district court by a vote of 93 to one in 1999, even while Senate Republicans were pocket filibustering more than 60 of President Clinton’s judicial nominees.
I regret that Republican Senators chose to delay a final vote on Judge Jordan’s confirmation. He is fine man who, after emigrating from Havana, Cuba at the age of six went on to graduate summa cum laude from the University of Miami law school and clerk for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. He served as Federal prosecutor and Federal judge. The needless delay of Judge Jordan’s confirmation is an example of the harmful tactics that have all but paralyzed the Senate confirmation process and are damaging our Federal courts.
It should not take four months and require a cloture motion to proceed to a nomination such as that of Judge Jordan to fill a judicial emergency vacancy on the Eleventh Circuit. It should not take more months and more cloture motions before the Senate finally votes on the nearly 20 other superbly-qualified judicial nominees who have been stalled by Senate Republicans for months while vacancies continue to plague our Federal courts and delay justice for the American people. The American people need and deserve Federal courts ready to serve them, not empty benches and long delays.
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Press ContactDavid Carle: 202-224-3693
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