07.18.11

Leahy Urges Senators To Lift Holds On Bill To Extend FBI Director Mueller’s Term

WASHINGTON (Monday, July 18, 2011) – The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday urged all Senators to lift any objections to the consideration of a bill to extend for two years the term of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller. 

 

On the Senate Floor, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, “All Senate Democrats are prepared to take up and pass this extension bill, and send it to the House of Representatives for it to take final action by August 2.  That is what we should be doing.  We should do that now.  There is no good reason for delay.  All that is lacking is Senate Republicans’ consent.”

 

Leahy joined with Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), to introduce legislation in May to respond to President Obama’s request that Congress provide a one-time, two-year extension of Director Mueller’s term, which is set to expire on August 2.  The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the proposal on June 8, and reported the legislation to the full Senate on June 16, and on June 21, Leahy filed a Committee report to accompany the legislation.  Leahy immediately sought to reach a time agreement to consider the legislation, but objections by a handful of Senators have prevented action. 

 

“All Senate Democrats have been prepared to take up and pass this extension bill for weeks,” Leahy said.  “There is no good reason for delay.  At first it was reportedly Senator Coburn who was holding up consideration of the bill, then Senator DeMint, and now apparently it is an objection by Senator Paul of Kentucky that is preventing the Senate from proceeding.  This sort of delay is inexplicable and inexcusable.”

 

Leahy continued, “Given the continuing threat to our Nation, especially with the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks approaching, and the need to provide continuity and stability on the President’s national security team, it is important that we respond to the President’s request and enact this necessary legislation swiftly.  I urge the Senate to take up this critical legislation and pass it without further delay.”

Many of the nation’s leading law enforcement organizations have endorsed a two-year extension of Director Mueller’s service, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association.

The full text of Leahy’s remarks follow.

# # # # #

 

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On A Bill To Extend The Service Of FBI Director Robert Mueller, S.1103

July 18, 2011

 

As Prepared for Delivery

 

Back on May 12, the President requested that Congress pass legislation to enable Robert Mueller to continue serving as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for up to two additional years, in light of the leadership transition at other key national security agencies, and the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches. 

In response to the President’s request, a bipartisan group of Senators drafted and introduced S.1103, a bill that would create a one-time exception to the statute limiting the term of the FBI Director by allowing the term of the incumbent FBI Director to continue for two additional years.  Given the continuing threats to our Nation and the need to provide continuity and stability on the President’s national security team, it is important that this critical legislation be enacted without delay.  

Director Mueller’s term expires on August 2, 2011.  Of the 12 weeks between the President’s request and the expiration of Director Mueller’s term, ten have passed.   The time for responsible congressional action has all but elapsed. 

Congressional leaders, including Republican leaders, reacted to the President’s request saying that they supported it.  On May 26, bipartisan legislation to provide the one-time statutory exception, which was drafted by Senator Grassley, was introduced.  It was cosponsored by me, Senator Grassley, and the chair and vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senators Feinstein and Chambliss.  The Judiciary Committee moved quickly to consider this legislation and report it to the full Senate.  We proceeded at Senator Grassley’s request to a prompt hearing on June 8.  I listed the legislation on the Committee’s agenda for action on June 9.  It was held over for another week.  Finally on June 16, the Committee met, debated the matter, and reported the bill with an amendment to clarify its constitutionality.  On June 21, Senate Report 112-23 was filed regarding the bill.  We have been trying to reach an agreement to consider the bill for more than a month, but Republican objections have stalled this effort.  

On June 29, my statement to the Senate warned that we would have only a few short weeks left this month to complete action and for the House to act.  We should be acting responsibly and expeditiously.  I have worked diligently in a bipartisan way with Senator Grassley in order to prevent a lapse in the term of the Director of the FBI.  The bill enjoys the strong support of law enforcement groups, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association.

We must act on this bill without further, unnecessary delays.  The Senate must take it up, consider it and pass it, and then the House will need to consider and pass the bill before the President has the opportunity to sign it.  Each of these steps must be completed prior to the expiration of the Director’s current 10-year term on August 2, 2011.  There is no time to waste. 

All Senate Democrats have been prepared to take up and pass this extension bill for weeks.  There is no good reason for delay.  At first it was reportedly Senator Coburn who was holding up consideration of the bill, then Senator DeMint, and now apparently it is an objection by Senator Paul of Kentucky that is preventing the Senate from proceeding.  This sort of delay is inexplicable and inexcusable.

In order to accomplish our goal, I have even been willing to proceed along the lines of an alternative approach demanded by Senator Coburn.  That approach is falsely predicated on a constitutional problem that, in fact, does not exist.  The bill reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee is an extension of a term limit that Congress imposed on the service of the Director of the FBI.  As set forth in the Committee Report on the extension bill, and as reaffirmed in a June 20, 2011, memorandum opinion by the Office of Legal Counsel, the bill reported by a bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Senate is constitutionally sound and a proper response by Congress to the President’s request.  Nonetheless, I was prepared to proceed using Senator Coburn’s language instead of Senator Grassley’s and mine, so long as one further problem was removed.  Specifically, the other major problem with Senator Coburn’s approach is that it would necessitate the renomination of Director Mueller, and then his reconsideration and reconfirmation by the Senate after enactment of Senator Coburn’s alternative bill – and all before August 3.

On June 29, I warned that this was an additional, unnecessary and possibly dangerous complication.  I do not want Americans to approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11 without an FBI Director in office.  The distractions to Director Mueller created by the extended proceedings on this legislation have been damaging enough.  To require his renomination and then allow it to be held hostage or used as leverage, as so many of President Obama’s nominations have been, seemed to me a risk that was better avoided.  I did not want the extension of Director Mueller’s service leading the FBI to fall victim to the same objections that have obstructed Senate action on other important presidential nominations and appointments.  Unfortunately, as I had warned, that is precisely what has happened in this case.  

I have spoken often about the unnecessary and inexcusable delays on judicial nominations.   Even consensus nominees have faced long delays before Senate Republicans would allow a vote.  Since President Obama was elected, we have had to overcome two filibusters on two Circuit Court nominees who were reported unanimously by the Committee.  These judges – Judge Barbara Keenan of the Fourth Circuit and Judge Denny Chin of the Second Circuit – were then confirmed unanimously once the filibusters were brought to an end. These are currently 17 judicial nominees who were reported unanimously by all Republicans and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee and yet are stuck on the Senate Executive Calendar because Senate Republicans will not consent to vote on them.  These are consensus nominations that should not have been delayed while the Federal courts are experiencing a judicial vacancies crisis.  

This pattern of delay and obstruction has not been confined to judges.  President Obama’s executive nominations have been subjected to the same unfair treatment.  The first five U.S. Attorneys appointed by President Obama were delayed more than two months for no good reason in the summer of 2009.  These are the top Federal law enforcement officers in those districts and yet it took from June 4 to August 7 before Senate Republicans would consent to their confirmations.  They were then confirmed unanimously.  The Chairman of the United States Sentencing Commission was similarly delayed unnecessarily for almost six months, from May 7 until October 21, 2009.  He, too, was ultimately confirmed without opposition, but after needless delay. 

Among a slew of other troublesome examples are these:  One Republican Senator objected to a nominee to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors because, according to that Senator, the nominee lacked the necessary qualifications.  The nominee was a Nobel Prize winner and MIT economics professor.  Another Republican Senator is blocking the confirmation of two SEC Commissioners until he extracts action from the SEC related to a case against the Stanford Financial Group.  A group of Senate Republicans have sent a letter to President Obama vowing to oppose any nominee to be Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Republican Senators are vowing to block President Obama’s nominee to serve as the Secretary of Commerce. 

In a particularly illustrative case, one Republican Senator lifted his hold on the nomination of the Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service only after the administration acceded to his demands and issued 15 offshore oil drilling permits.  Shortly thereafter, another Republican Senator placed a hold on the very same nomination to force the Interior Department to release documents on the Department’s “wild lands” policy.  It did not end there.  When that dispute was resolved, a third Republican Senator reportedly placed a hold on the nominee, demanding a review of the protected status of wolves.  That nominee has still not been confirmed.

Regrettably, Senate Republicans have ratcheted up the partisanship, limiting the cooperation that used to allow nominations to move forward more quickly.  That hostage-taking should not affect this critical term extension for the head of the FBI, but it has.  Another important nomination is being subjected to holds and delays.  Another well-qualified national security nominee is being used as leverage by the Republican Senate minority to extract other unrelated concessions.  That is what Senator Coburn’s alternative plan invited and that is what is happening with Senator Paul’s objection to proceeding.  

Just recently, we finally broke through months of obstruction of the Deputy Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for National Security, key national security related nominations.  In May, Senate Republicans filibustered for the first time in American history the nomination of the Deputy Attorney General of the United States.  The nomination of the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division at the Department of Justice was subjected to similar, inexcusable delay.  That nominee was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and unanimously by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and ultimately approved unanimously by the Senate.  But that nomination, approved unanimously all along the way, took 15 weeks.  It took more than a month just to schedule the Senate vote after the nomination was reported unanimously by two Senate Committees.  I warned on June 29 that we have no guarantee that the President’s nomination of an FBI Director would be treated any differently.  Regrettably, that has become true. 

Senate Republicans have known since we began consideration of the President’s request to extend the FBI Director’s term that his plan could not be considered a viable alternative unless there was an agreement from Senate Republicans to ensure that the Senate would complete its work and have the FBI Director in place at the end of the summer.  That agreement would take the form of a unanimous consent agreement in the Senate, entered into by all Senators, and locked in, on the Record, so that it could not be changed without unanimous consent.  That has not occurred.  Senator Coburn was unable to convince his leadership and the Republican caucus to agree.  That was the only way to ensure Senate action on a nomination before August 3. 

To complete action in accordance with Senator Coburn’s alternative plan would mean not only passing legislation through both the Senate and House, but the Senate also receiving, considering and confirming the renomination of Director Mueller.  I was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee back in 2001 when the Senate considered and confirmed Director Mueller’s initial nomination within two weeks.  I worked hard to make that happen.  I predicted in June that given the current practices of Senate Republicans, and their unwillingness to agree on expedited treatment for President Obama’s nominations, it was foolhardy to think that all Senate Republicans would cooperate.  They have not.  There has already been a shifting series of Republicans holds over the last month. 

The bill was reported over one month ago and action has been stymied by Republican objections every since.  Senate Republicans have simply refused to agree to proceed and now there is no time for a complicated two phase procedure.  We need to pass the necessary statutory authority to allow Director Mueller to continue without further delay.

As I have said, all Senate Democrats are prepared to take up and pass this extension bill, and send it to the House of Representatives for it to take final action before August 3.  That is what we should be doing.  We should do that now.  There is no good reason for delay.  All that is lacking is Senate Republicans’ consent.

This important legislation would fulfill the President’s request that Congress create a one-time exception to the statutory 10-year term of the FBI Director in order to extend the term of the incumbent FBI Director for two additional years.  Given the continuing threat to our Nation, especially with the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks approaching, and the need to provide continuity and stability on the President’s national security team, it is important that we respond to the President’s request and enact this necessary legislation swiftly.  The incumbent FBI Director’s term otherwise expires on August 2, 2011.  I urge the Senate to take up this critical legislation and pass it without further delay.

# # # # #

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693