Senate Confirms Solicitor General Nominee Donald Verrilli


WASHINGTON (Monday, June 6, 2011) – The Senate Monday night voted overwhelmingly to confirm Donald Verrilli to be the Solicitor General of the United States.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to report Verrilli’s nomination to the full Senate on May 12.  Shortly before the vote Monday night, the Senate reached an agreement to hold a final, confirmation vote on the nomination, vitiating a cloture motion filed before the Senate recessed on May 26, and avoiding the first filibuster of a Solicitor General nominee in history.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) spoke on the Senate floor before the vote. 

“Mr. Verrilli is by all accounts one of the finest lawyers in the country, whose extensive experience as an advocate for a wide variety of clients will serve him well as Solicitor General, the top advocate for the United States,” said Leahy.  “Don Verrilli is exactly the kind of superbly qualified, serious professional we should be encouraging to serve the American people in their government.”

For information about Verrilli’s nomination, and other pending nominations referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, visit the Committee’s website.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

On The Nomination Of Donald Verrilli

To Be Solicitor General of the United States

June 6, 2011

I thank the Majority Leader and the Republican leader for reaching an agreement for the Senate to debate and vote on the nomination of Don Verrilli to be Solicitor General of the United States.  By doing so, we were able to vitiate the cloture petition and avoid another unnecessary filibuster.  Had agreement not been reached, this would have been the first filibuster in history of a Solicitor General nomination. 

Mr. Verrilli is by all accounts one of the finest lawyers in the country, whose extensive experience as an advocate for a wide variety of clients will serve him well as Solicitor General, the top advocate for the United States.  In a long and distinguished career, Mr. Verrilli has argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court, Federal appeals courts and state appellate courts.  He clerked for Judge J. Skelly Wright on the D.C. Circuit and for Justice William Brennan on the United States Supreme Court.  Mr. Verrilli’s impressive breadth of experience both in Government and in private practice led the Judiciary Committee to report his nomination by a vote of 17-1 nearly a month ago.  Seven of the eight Republican Members of the Committee joined in supporting Mr. Verrilli’s nomination. 

The Judiciary Committee heard from many respected lawyers from across the political spectrum in support for Mr. Verrilli’s nomination.  Eight former Solicitors General from both Republican and Democratic administrations, among them Republicans Charles Fried, Kenneth Starr, Ted Olson, Paul Clement and Gregory Garre, concluded: “Mr. Verrilli is ideally suited to carry out the crucial tasks assigned to the Solicitor General and to maintain the traditions of the Office of the Solicitor General.”

More than 50 prominent Supreme Court practitioners urged the Senate to confirm Mr. Verrilli’s nomination, including conservatives like Maureen Mahoney, Peter Keisler, and Miguel Estrada.   They wrote: “Don’s approach to practicing law throughout his career—his meticulousness in understanding and presenting facts accurately and his insistence on coherently laying out reasons for the positions he is urging—proves beyond question that Don will protect and promote the rule of law.”

I ask unanimous consent that copies of the letters in support be included in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks.

Don Verrilli is exactly the kind of superbly qualified, serious professional we should be encouraging to serve the American people in their Government.  I expect that he will be confirmed by a strong bipartisan majority of the Senate. 

Like all of the nominations reported by the Judiciary Committee and pending on the Senate’s Executive Calendar, Mr. Verrilli’s nomination has been through the Judiciary Committee’s fair and thorough process.  We reviewed extensive background material on his nomination.  All Senators on the Committee, Democratic and Republican, had the opportunity to ask him questions at a live hearing.  All Senators had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Verrilli individually, as well.  Many also took advantage of the opportunity to ask him questions in writing following the hearing.

We then debated and voted on his nomination.  I thank the members of the Committee for their work, consideration and judgment.  Many cited their meetings with Mr. Verrilli and his serious and thoughtful answers to hundreds of written questions for the record as a basis for their support of his nomination.  The result of the process was that Senators, having raised whatever concerns they had and whatever differences they have with the policies of the Obama administration, voted nearly unanimously in favor of confirming Mr. Verrilli based on his qualifications, experience and appreciation for the responsibilities of the Solicitor General.

I appreciate the effort made by the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee in considering the Verrilli nomination on its merits and voting to support him, with one exception.  I appreciated the thoughtful statement by the ranking Republican at our markup, nearly one month ago, in which he set forth his concerns and the painstaking process he followed to evaluate the nomination and his judgment to support him.  Senator Grassley attended the hearing, met personally with the nominee, and engaged in extensive written questioning, as well.  In his statement he commended Mr. Verrilli “for his serious approach to the task of providing responses” and for his “thoughtful answers.”  After that rigorous process, Senator Grassley became more comfortable that Mr. Verrilli “understands the duty of the Solicitor General.”  He emphasized that Mr. Verrilli had made clear to him that “he would not lend his name or that of the office to carrying out any order which he believed to be based upon partisan political considerations or other illegitimate reasons” and that rather than do so, he would resign from office.  Senator Grassley concluded that he has “every expectation that Mr. Verrilli, if confirmed, will honorably live up to his duties, obligations, and assurances.”

The Committee process left no doubt that Mr. Verrilli has an extensive knowledge of the law and an understanding of the independence required to represent the interests of the Government and the American people as the Solicitor General of the United States.  He is well qualified and well suited to serve in the role of what is often called “the tenth Justice.”

The Senate has a longstanding practice of giving deference to the President to make nominations for positions in the Executive branch.  However, as we have seen with more and more of President Obama’s nominations, Senate Republicans have dramatically departed from our Senate standards.  This does great harm to the interests of the American people, the ability of good people to serve, the capacity of the Government to fulfill its responsibilities and the proper functioning of the Senate.  Subjecting consensus nominees to unnecessary and damaging delays and unjustified and harmful filibusters is wrong.   I am glad the Senate leaders have been able to come to agreement to avoid the threatened filibuster of this qualified nominee to serve as Solicitor General of the United States. 

Before the Memorial Day recess, the Senate should have confirmed the nomination of Lisa Monaco be the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the National Security Division at the Justice Department.  That is a key national security position. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Ms. Monaco’s nomination in April and reported her nomination unanimously in early May.  Her nomination has since been considered by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at an additional hearing and was reported unanimously by that Committee, as well, nearly two weeks ago.  After such a thorough process, there is no doubt that President Obama has made a first-rate choice to fill this very critical national security position.  The value of Ms. Monaco’s wealth of experience and institutional knowledge has been supported by the many former Justice Department officials who have written in support of her nomination, including former Attorney General Mukasey, who served during the President George W. Bush administration.  Without cause or explanation, the Republican leadership still has not consented to a vote on this important national security nomination.   

Even more egregious is the unprecedented filibuster of the nomination of Jim Cole to be Deputy Attorney General, the number two position at the Justice Department also with key national security responsibilities.  There is no excuse or justification for the continued failure to act on Mr. Cole’s nomination to fill this critical position.  It was blocked last year when it was pending for five months in the Senate.  The nomination was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee again in March, and incredibly, has been filibustered for another 10 weeks while the country faces concerns about terrorism in the aftermath of the President’s successful operation against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  It is hard for me to understand how, at a time when experts are concerned that al Qaeda will seek reprisals, the Senate has not acted to ensure that President Obama has his full national security team in place.  Instead, Senate Republicans have chosen to delay action on those nominations and to seek to use them as leverage against the administration.   

I have urged Senate Republicans to reject this partisan approach and to come together to work with our President to keep America safe.  In the aftermath of 9/11, we expedited law enforcement nominations, confirming an additional 58 officials to posts at the Justice Department before the end of 2001.  We should have done the same with the nominations of Lisa Monaco and Jim Cole.  We should treat Mr. Cole’s nomination with the same urgency and seriousness with which we treated all four of the Deputy Attorneys General who served under President Bush.  All four were confirmed by the Senate by voice vote an average of 21 days after they were reported by the Judiciary Committee.  No Deputy Attorney General nomination has ever been subjected to a filibuster before.  It is wrong and should end.

I am confident that Mr. Verrilli’s qualifications, experience, ability, temperament and judgment will lead to an overwhelming bipartisan vote in support of his confirmation to serve as the next Solicitor General of the United States. 

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