02.23.16

Leahy: Senate Must Do Its Job, Uphold Constitution and Consider SCOTUS Nominee

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, February 23, 2016) – The Senate must fulfill its constitutional duty this year to fill a Supreme Court vacancy so that the court can fully function and serve as the final arbiter of law, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Tuesday.

In an address on the Senate floor, Leahy noted that during his 36 years on the Judiciary Committee, the panel has never refused to give a Supreme Court nominee a hearing and has never refused to send the nominee to the full Senate for a confirmation vote, even when the majority of the Committee opposed the nomination.  And once reported to the full Senate, every Supreme Court nominee has received an up-or-down confirmation vote. 

With the unexpected vacancy caused by Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely death, the Senate must act, or risk the Supreme Court being deadlocked on the most critical issues facing Americans for two terms.

“The President will fulfill his constitutional duty and nominate an individual to bring the Supreme Court back to full strength, and he is right to do so.  The President has already begun consulting with the Senate.  After a nomination has been made, we in the Senate must then do our jobs,” Leahy said in a floor statement.  

Leahy added:  “While it is rare that a vacancy on the Supreme Court arises during an election year, it is just false to say that justices do not get confirmed in presidential election years.  More than a dozen Supreme Court justices have been.  Most recently, Justice Kennedy was confirmed by a Democratic-led Senate during President Reagan’s final year in office.  He received a hearing and a confirmation vote.  The same process should apply today with a Democrat in the White House and Republicans in control of the Senate.”

While Leahy served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee during the last two years of the Bush administration, the Senate confirmed 68 judges.  In the last year of the Bush administration, Senate Democrats confirmed 28 judicial nominees, including 10 in September alone.  In sharp contrast, Senate Republicans have confirmed just 16 Obama nominees since taking over the majority in 2015.

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