Leahy: Senate Republicans Must End Virtual Shutdown of Judicial Confirmations

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, September 30, 2015) – The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday held its first judicial confirmation hearing since July, hearing the testimony of four long-pending nominees including two who would fill emergency vacancies.  While Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) welcomed the overdue progress to considering these nominees, he urged Senate Republican leaders to address the growing backlog of judicial nominees pending on the floor. 

“I appreciate Chairman Grassley’s efforts to schedule today’s hearing for some of the nominees pending in our Committee, and I am hopeful he will schedule additional hearings soon,” Leahy said.  “At the same time, the full Senate must allow votes on the 16 qualified judicial nominees pending on the floor.  Because Republican leaders have virtually shut down the confirmation process, we are headed to a judicial vacancy crisis. This harms our justice system and it hurts all Americans.  I urge Senate Republicans to start leading responsibly.”

Today, during Hispanic Heritage Month, Leahy also said the Senate should confirm pending judicial nominees supported by the non-partisan Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA).  While the Senate passed a resolution recognizing celebrating Hispanic heritage earlier this month, Leahy said “we should be doing much more than approving a resolution.”

“We should be working on a bipartisan basis to pass comprehensive immigration reform, as the Senate did last Congress under a Democratic majority,” he added.  “And at the same time, the Senate should immediately confirm the several judicial nominees supported by the non-partisan Hispanic National Bar Association.” 

Currently, there are three judicial nominees supported by the HNBA pending on the Senate floor.  All three nominees received overwhelming support in the Judiciary Committee, and two would fill emergency vacancies:

  • Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo was nominated last year to fill an emergency vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Pennsylvania.  He was unanimously confirmed two years ago by the Senate to serve as a district court judge, and his nomination to the circuit court has the support of both Pennsylvania Senators. 
  • Armando Bonilla, who was first nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims back in May 2014, stands to become the first Hispanic judge to hold a seat on that court.
  • John Michael Vazquez was nominated to a judicial emergency vacancy in the District of New Jersey in March.  The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously rated Mr. Vazquez “Well Qualified” to serve as a district judge, its highest rating. 

A fourth nominee, Dax López, was nominated to a judicial vacancy in the Northern District of Georgia two months ago, and is still awaiting a hearing in the Judiciary Committee.

Leahy said: “These dedicated public servants are eager to serve and Senate Democrats support their confirmation.  The Senate should immediately turn to the confirmation vote of Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo and then schedule confirmation votes for the other 15 judicial nominees, including, Mr. Bonilla, and Mr. Vazquez, without further delay.”  

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