On Constitution Day, Leahy Urges Senate Republicans To Uphold Responsibility Of Advice & Consent

WASHINGTON (Thursday, September 17, 2015) – The Senate has a unique constitutional responsibility of advice and consent when it comes to confirming nominees, yet so far this year the Republican majority has failed to uphold this critical role.  After the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously approved 3 district court nominees, who now join 13 other judicial nominees pending on the floor, Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called on Senate Republicans to set politics aside and schedule confirmation votes without further delay.

“Although Senate Republicans campaigned last year on the promise that they would govern responsibly if they won the majority, they continue to prioritize divisive issues that play only to their political base and yield no results for the American people,” Leahy said.

Before the August break, Leahy and all Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) urging him to more swiftly schedule confirmation votes on judicial nominees.  But so far this work period, the Senate has confirmed just one judicial nominee.  

Among the widely supported nominees being held up on the Senate floor is Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo, who was nominated last year to fill an emergency vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Pennsylvania.  Judge Restrepo 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.  Yet it took the Republican majority on the Judiciary Committee seven months to schedule a confirmation hearing for this consensus nominee, who is now being denied a vote on the floor because of Republican obstruction. 

Republican obstruction of non-controversial, consensus judicial nominees like Judge Restrepo is leading to an uptick in the vacancy rate.  By the end of last year, while Democrats still controlled the Senate, there were just 43 vacancies on our Federal courts.  Less than one year later, and as a result of Republicans’ slow pace confirming nominees, vacancies have risen to 67.  A new report out today by the Alliance for Justice confirms that judicial vacancies are reaching crisis levels.

Leahy, who last week spoke on the floor about the looming vacancy crisis, reiterated his call for the Republican majority to schedule a floor vote for Judge Restrepo. 

“No Senate Democrat opposes a vote on his nomination.  The only ones who are holding up his nomination are the Senate Republicans,” Leahy said. “I am urging Republican leadership to reverse course.  Confirm Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo without further delay.  And then confirm the other 12 non-controversial judicial nominees pending on our Executive Calendar.” 

Leahy also called on Republicans to prioritize the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee.  The Committee is slated to hold one confirmation hearing at the end of September, and additional hearings in October.

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