03.20.08

Leahy To Bush: Senate Republicans Stalling Executive Nominations

Judiciary Committee Chairman Schedules Fifth Nominations Hearing Of 2008

WASHINGTON (Thursday, March 20, 2008) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday sent President Bush a letter again seeking cooperation in moving forward with judicial and executive nominations.

Despite partisan rhetoric from Republicans and the White House, the Senate has made significant progress in considering Bush’s judicial nominations and nominations to high-ranking positions in the Department of Justice, since last fall, confirming a new leadership group at the Department, including a new Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General.  Nearly 90 percent of Bush’s nominees to the Federal bench have been confirmed by the Senate, including nearly three quarters of his circuit court nominees, compared to only 75 percent of President Clinton’s nominees, and only half of his nominees to circuit courts.

Before the Senate recessed last Thursday, however, an anonymous Republican hold prevented Senate confirmation of the President’s nominees to be the Associate Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.

“I regret to inform you that we were stalled last week in our efforts to fill two critical positions at the Department,” Leahy wrote to Bush.  “I was particularly disappointed with this development.  They were set for confirmation before the Easter recess, until the last-minute Republican objection stalled them.”

Since January, the Judiciary Committee has held four nominations hearings for seven judicial nominations and three executive nominations.  Leahy on Thursday announced that the Committee will hold another nominations hearing on April 3 for four district court nominees and for the nominee to be the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy  In his letter to Bush, Leahy signaled his hope that the recent nomination of Steven Agee to the Fourth Circuit would be considered promptly.

“I expect the Judiciary Committee and the Senate to proceed to confirm Justice Agee with the support of Senator Warner and Senator Webb,” wrote Leahy, who also urged Bush to “work with Senators from other states, as well, so that we might make progress before time runs out…and the Thurmond Rule precludes additional confirmations.”

Agee’s nomination comes after the White House insisted on sending to the Senate the nomination of Duncan Getchell for a seat on the Fourth Circuit, against the objections of Virginia Senators John Warner (R) and Jim Webb (D).  That nomination was withdrawn just a few months after it was received by the Senate.

Since the start of the Bush administration, the Senate has reduced vacancies, including circuit court vacancies, to as few as half as many as were pending during the Clinton administration, when Senate Republicans stalled consideration of nominations to the Federal bench.  Four district court nominations are pending on the Senate’s Executive Calendar.  Another nomination, to the Fifth Circuit, is pending on the Judiciary Committee’s agenda.

During Leahy’s chairmanship, the Senate has confirmed 140 of Bush’s judicial nominations.  Since the start of the 110th Congress, the Senate has confirmed 26 executive nominations.

The text of Leahy’s letter to Bush follows.  

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March 20, 2008 

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20500

Dear Mr. President:

I write again, as I did last November, to demonstrate my willingness to work constructively with you in accordance with the Senate’s important role in the consideration of your nominees to high-ranking positions in the executive branch and to lifetime appointments on our Federal courts.  

Since last September, the Senate Judiciary Committee has been hard at work seeking to help restore the Department of Justice.  The leadership ranks at the Department of Justice were decimated by the scandals of the Gonzales era.  The Judiciary Committee’s hearing last week was the seventh hearing we have held since September on executive nominations.  The Senate has proceeded to confirm a new Attorney General, a new Deputy Attorney General, and numerous other nominations to fill high-ranking positions at the Justice Department.

I regret to inform you that we were stalled last week in our efforts to fill two other critical positions at the Department, when an anonymous Republican hold blocked confirmation of Kevin O’Connor to be the Associate Attorney General, and Gregory Katsas to be the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division. I was particularly disappointed with this unexpected development.  We had worked hard to expedite these nominations, holding a hearing on the first day of this session of Congress.  After a nearly month-long delay, when Republican Members of the Judiciary Committee effectively boycotted our business meetings in February, we were able to report these nominations to the Senate in early March.  They were set for confirmation before the Easter recess, until the last-minute Republican objection stalled them.  They join your nomination of Michael Sullivan to be the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as among those stymied by Republican objections.  I trust at any future White House event on the status of nominations you will point out that several of your high-level executive nominations are being stalled by Republican objections.

With respect to judicial nominations, I want to commend you for working with Senators Warner and Webb to identify a nominee from those they recommended to you to fill a Virginia Fourth Circuit vacancy.  Your previous nominations from Virginia, William Haynes, Claude Allen and Duncan Getchell, were controversial and did not proceed.  Following your withdrawal of the Getchell nomination earlier this year, I urged you to work with the Virginia Senators.  I now thank you for doing so.

I expect your nomination of Steven Agee to be considered promptly following completion of the necessary paperwork.  I want to encourage meaningful consultation with Senators of both parties. Just as we proceeded last year to confirm your nomination of Judge Randy Smith to the Ninth Circuit, once you had withdrawn his nomination for a California seat and resubmitted it for a vacancy from Idaho, I expect the Judiciary Committee and the Senate to proceed to confirm Justice Agee with the support of Senator Warner and Senator Webb.  I urge you to work with Senators from other states, as well, so that we might make progress before time runs out on your Presidency and the Thurmond Rule precludes additional confirmations.     

Your judicial nominations have fared far better than those of your Democratic predecessor.  Nearly 90 percent of your nominations have been confirmed to lifetime appointments.  Approximately three-quarters of your circuit nominations, compared to little more than half of President Clinton’s circuit court nominations, have been confirmed.  We have succeeded in reducing overall vacancies and circuit court vacancies to as few as half as many as during President Clinton’s term.  With four more judicial nominations on the Senate’s Executive Calendar and another pending on the Senate Judiciary agenda, I am proceeding to notice another hearing for judicial nominees for the week immediately following the Easter recess.  That will be our fifth nominations hearing so far this year.   

Respectfully,                       

PATRICK LEAHY
Chairman 
cc:  The Honorable Arlen Specter 

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Witness List

Hearing before the
Senate Judiciary Committee
on
“Nominations”

Thursday, April 3, 2008
Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226
2:15 p.m.

Mark S. Davis to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia

David Gregory Kays to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Missouri

David J. Novak to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia

Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr. to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri

Elisebeth C. Cook to be Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy, Department of Justice

# # # # #

 

****For Background****

Nominations Stats

Judges Confirmed Under President Bush

Chairman

Circuit

District

Total noms (includes CIT and SCOTUS)

 

 

 

 

Leahy 1st Tenure (17 months)

17

83

100

 

 

 

 

Leahy 2nd Tenure (15 months)

6

34

40

 

 

 

 

Leahy total (32 months)

23

117

140

 

 

 

 

Hatch (2 years)

18

85

104

 

 

 

 

Specter (2 years)

16

35

54

 

Nominations Made vs. Nominations Confirmed

As of 3/20/08

 

District Court Nominations

Circuit Court Nominations

Total District and Circuit

George W. Bush

(107th to 110th,

2001-2008)

[As of 3/20/08]

Nominations Made

264

80

344

Nominations Confirmed

237

57

294

Percent Confirmed

89.8%

71.3%

85.5%

 

 

 

 

 

William J. Clinton

(103rd to 106th,

1993-2000)

Nominations Made

382

115

497

Nominations Confirmed

307

65

372

Percent Confirmed

80.4%

56.5%

74.8%

 

Judicial Vacancies 

At the end of Clinton administration (January 21, 2001)

Total vacancies: 80 (This rose to 100 with retirements early in Bush administration)

Circuit vacancies: 26 (This rose to 32 with retirements early in Bush administration)

District vacancies: 54


Currently under Chairman Leahy (March 20, 2008)

Total vacancies: 49 (18 with no nominees)

Circuit vacancies: 14 (3 with no nominees)

District vacancies: 35 (15 with no nominees)

U.S. Attorney vacancies: 23 (19 with no nominees)

Judicial nominations on the Senate’s Executive Calendar:  4

Judicial nominations on the Judiciary Committee Agenda: 1

Judicial nominations listed for hearing: 4

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Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693

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