03.11.09

Senate Begins Debate On Justice Department Nominee

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, March 11, 2009) – The U.S. Senate today began debate on the nomination of David Ogden to be the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, the number two position at the Department of Justice.  Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) opened the debate in a floor statement Wednesday morning.

Ogden’s nomination was first announced on January 5.  A hearing to consider the nomination was held on February 5, and his nomination was reported by the Judiciary Committee on February 26.  Documents, letters and other materials about the nomination are available online.

The Senate is expected to vote on Ogden’s nomination later this week.  The full text of Leahy’s statement, as prepared, follows.

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On the Nomination of David Ogden to be Deputy Attorney General
March 11, 2009

As Prepared

We are here today to consider President Obama’s nomination of David Ogden to be Deputy Attorney General, the number two position at the Department of Justice.  Mr. Ogden is a highly-qualified nominee who has chosen to leave a successful career in private practice to return to the Department, where he previously served with great distinction.  His nomination has strong support from leading law enforcement organizations, children’s advocates, civil rights organizations and former government officials from Republican and Democratic administrations.

David Ogden is an immensely qualified nominee whose priorities will be the safety and security of the American people and reinvigorating the traditional work of the Justice Department in protecting the rights of all Americans.  That is why he will be a critical asset to the Attorney General. 

What is astonishing is that Republicans threatened to filibuster this nomination, refused to agree to this debate and a vote on the nomination, and required the Majority Leader to file a cloture petition, which he did on Monday.  For more than a week we were told that Republicans would not agree to a debate and vote and would insist on filibustering this nomination. 

I noted that development at the Judiciary Committee business meeting last Thursday after a week of fruitless efforts to move forward by agreement.  I noted my disappointment that, despite the bipartisan majority vote in favor of the nomination by Republicans and Democrats on the Committee, despite the support from law enforcement groups, children’s advocates, and former government officials from Republican and Democratic administrations, we had been stalled in our ability to move forward to consider this nomination.  And the Justice Department was left for another week without a Deputy. 

Quite frankly, I found the news of an imminent Republican filibuster incomprehensible. A bipartisan majority – 14 to 5 – voted to report this nomination from the Judiciary Committee to the Senate.  The Ranking Republican Member on the Committee, Senator Specter; the Assistant Senate Republican Leader, Senator Kyl; and the senior Senator from South Carolina, Senator Graham, each voted in favor of Mr. Ogden. 

In spite of that bipartisan support, someone or a group of Senators on the Republican side of the aisle were intent on filibustering President Obama's nomination for Deputy Attorney General of the United States.

Two weeks ago, we debated and voted on the nomination in the Judiciary Committee.  Those who opposed the nomination had the opportunity to explain their negative vote.  But I urged all Senators to reject the false and scurrilous attacks that have been made against Mr. Ogden. I also held out hope that they will reject applying double standards when it comes to President Obama's nominees.

I am glad that some semblance of common sense has finally prevailed on the Republican side of the aisle.  They have reversed their position and will not filibuster this nomination.  It was disturbing to see that the President’s nomination of Mr. Ogden to this critical national security post being held up by Senate Republicans.

I voted for all four of the nominees that the Senate confirmed and President Bush appointed to serve as the Deputy Attorney General during the course of his presidency.  In fact, each of the four was confirmed by voice vote.  Not a single Democratic Senator voted against them.

And, of course, every Republican Senator supported each of those nominees as they did the nomination of Alberto Gonzales and the other nominations of President Bush to high ranking positions at the Justice Department.

Today, however, there will be no more secret and anonymous Republican holds.  Any effort to oppose the President’s nominees – executive or judicial – will have to withstand public scrutiny. There will be no more anonymous holds.  We can turn at last to consideration of President Obama’s nomination of David Ogden to be Deputy Attorney General, the number two position at the Department.

As a former high-ranking official at both the Defense Department and the Justice Department, David Ogden is the kind of serious lawyer and experienced government servant who understands the special role the Department of Justice must fill in our democracy. 

It is no surprise that his nomination has received strong support from leading law enforcement organizations, children’s advocates, civil rights organizations and former government officials from Republican and Democratic administrations.

The confirmation of Mr. Ogden to this critical national security post should not be further delayed.  The Deputy Attorney General is too important position to be made into a partisan talking point for special interest politics.  The Deputy Attorney General is needed to manage the Justice Department with its many divisions, sections, and offices and tens of thousands of employees.

As Deputy Attorney General, Mr. Ogden would be responsible for the day-to-day management of the Justice Department, including the Department’s critical role of keeping our Nation safe from the threat of terrorism. 

I want publicly to thank Mark Filip, the most recent Deputy Attorney General.  He came from Chicago last year motivated by public service.  He was confirmed just over one year ago, unanimously, by voice vote.  On February 4, after 11 months of dedicated and commendable service to us all he left the Justice Department.  It is time that his replacement be confirmed by the United States Senate.

The Justice Department is without a confirmed Deputy at a time when we face great threats and challenges.  Indeed, one of the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission was that after presidential transitions, nominations for national security appointments, like Mr. Ogden’s, be accelerated.  In particular, the 9/11 Commission recommended that “a president-elect should submit the nominations of the entire new national security team, through the level of undersecretary of cabinet departments, not later than January 20.”  The Commission also recommended that the Senate “should adopt special rules requiring hearings and votes to confirm or reject national security nominees within 30 days of their submission.” 

President Obama did his part when he designated Mr. Ogden to be the Deputy Attorney General on January 5, more than two months ago.  It is time for the Senate to act. The problems and threats confronting the country are too serious to continue to delay. 

Scurrilous attacks against Mr. Ogden have been launched by some on the extreme right.  David Ogden is a good lawyer and a good man.  He is a husband and a father.  The chants that David Ogden is a pedophile and a pornographer are not only false, they are wrong.  Senators know better than that.  He is a decent family man and an exceptional lawyer.  He answered every question at his confirmation hearing about his personal views and about his legal representations.  

Mr. Ogden’s nomination has received dozens of letters of support, including strong endorsements from Republican and Democratic former public officials and high-ranking veterans of the Justice Department, from National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and from nearly every major law enforcement organization.  

Larry Thompson, a former Deputy Attorney General himself, describes Mr. Ogden as “a brilliant and thoughtful lawyer” who “has the complete confidence and respect of career attorneys at Main Justice.  David will be a superb Deputy Attorney General.”   Chuck Canterbury, the national President of the Fraternal Order of Police, wrote that Mr. Ogden “possesses the leadership and experience that the Justice Department will need to meet the challenges which lay before us.” 

A dozen retired military officers who served as Judge Advocates General have endorsed Mr. Ogden's nomination, calling him "a person of wisdom, fairness and integrity, a public servant vigilant to protect the national security of the United States, and a civilian official who values the perspective of unformed lawyers in matters within their particular expertise."

David Ogden is an immensely qualified nominee whose priorities will be the safety and security of the American people and reinvigorating the traditional work of the Justice Department in protecting the rights of Americans.  That is why he will be a critical asset to the Attorney General.  I urge all Senators to support Mr. Ogden’s nomination.

I ask unanimous consent that my full statement be printed in the record and I reserve the balance of my time.

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