Leahy: Senate Republicans Should Ignore Special Interests & Confirm Consensus Judicial Nominees

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, January 19, 2016) – In the last five presidential election years, the Senate has confirmed an average of 30 judicial nominees in the final year prior to Election Day. Despite the Senate’s well-established practice of confirming consensus nominees even in presidential election years, news reports have indicated that conservative activists are demanding the Republican majority shutdown the confirmation process entirely. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who while chairman moved 68 nominees through the confirmation process during the last two years of the Bush administration, urged Republicans not to subject consensus judicial nominees to partisan politics.

“Any attempt to shut down the judicial confirmation process to satisfy moneyed Washington interest groups would be wrong.  It would only work to harm our justice system and the American people we were elected to represent,” Leahy said.

Under a bipartisan agreement negotiated late last year by Leahy and Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Senate is expected to vote on five judicial nominees before the February recess.  The first nominee in that series, Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, was confirmed last week to serve on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  Today, the Senate is poised to consider Justice Wilhelmina Wright to the District of Minnesota.  Justice Wright, who was nominated more than nine months ago, will be the first African American woman to serve on Minnesota’s district court. 

“I know Justice Wright will make a superb Federal judge,” Leahy said.  “Based on her wealth of judicial experience and broad support, I cannot think of any good reason why Justice Wright should not be confirmed with an overwhelming vote.”

After Wright, the Senate is slated to consider John Vazquez to the District of New Jersey; Judge Rebecca Ebinger to the Southern District of Iowa and Judge Leonard Strand to the Northern District of Iowa. 

Outstanding nominees from Tennessee, Maryland, New Jersey, Nebraska, New York, and California are still pending on the floor, and nearly all of them would fill emergency vacancies.

Four district court nominees from Pennsylvania and one district court nominee from Rhode Island are awaiting a vote in the Judiciary Committee.  And nominees from Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin, and Indiana are all waiting for a confirmation meeting.

Leahy said: “It is up to the Senators from those states to urge their leadership to consider these nominees without delay so they can serve the people of those great states.”

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