04.21.10

Senate Confirms Top Justice Department Nominee

Schroeder Waited More Than 200 Days On Senate Calendar For Confirmation Vote

WASHINGTON – The Senate Wednesday afternoon confirmed Christopher Schroeder to lead the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, more than eight months after his nomination was first reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee without opposition.  Schroeder’s nomination was confirmed by a strong bipartisan vote of 71-25.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has been urging the Senate to confirm Schroeder’s nomination to be the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy, which has received bipartisan support.  The Office of Legal Policy is involved with reviewing and preparing judicial nominations

“Chris Schroeder is well-known to many of us in the Senate,” said Leahy.  “There is no question that Professor Schroeder is well-qualified to run the Office of Legal Policy.”

President Obama first nominated Schroeder in June of 2009, and in July 2009, the Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination to the full Senate for consideration without dissent.  Schroeder’s nomination remained pending until the end of 2009, when objections from Senate Republicans forced the nomination to be returned to the President.  In February, the Committee, including a majority of Republican Committee members, voted to advance the nomination to the floor a second time, after President Obama again nominated Schroeder to the post.

Senate Republicans have objected to proposed time agreements to debate and vote on the nomination, and last week, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Vt.) filed cloture on the nomination.  No Senator spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday in opposition to the nomination.

“It should not have required the majority leader to file cloture in order to end the Republican filibuster and for the Senate at last to have an up-or-down vote on Professor Schroeder’s nomination,” said Leahy.  “The nearly year long delay in considering his nomination in the Senate is a sign of the extent of the Republican effort to obstruct President Obama’s nominations.”

Schroeder is currently a professor at the Duke University School of Law, where he is the director of the Program in Public Law.  His past experience includes work on the Senate Judiciary Committee and in the Department of Justice.

Nearly 40 nominations reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee are pending on the Senate’s executive calendar, including 10 noncontroversial nominations to fill U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal vacancies across the country.  The Senate is expected to vote later today on a long-pending judicial nomination, that of Judge Thomas Vanaskie to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  Vanaskie’s nomination has been pending since it was reported by the Judiciary Committee in early December.  In total, 25 judicial nominations pending since as long ago as November await confirmation by the full Senate.

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

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On The Nomination Of Chris Schroeder
To Be The Assistant Attorney General For The Office Of Legal Policy

April 21, 2010

Today the Senate will finally confirm Professor Chris Schroeder to lead the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, nearly 11 months after he was first nominated by President Obama.

Professor Schroeder was first nominated to this position on June 4, 2009.  He appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last June, and was reported favorably in July by voice vote, with no dissent.  His nomination then languished on the Senate’s Executive Calendar for nearly five months, with no explanation of the delay. 

Then, as the last session drew to a close, Republican Senators objected to carrying over Professor Schroeder’s nomination into the new session, and it was returned to the President without action, forcing the process to begin all over again.  President Obama renominated Professor Schroeder early this year, and his nomination was reconsidered and reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee again with support from a majority of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.  That was nearly three months ago.

A scholar and public servant who has served with distinction on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee and in the Justice Department, Professor Schroeder has support across the political spectrum.  The Judiciary Committee received, and I will include in the record, letters of support for Professor Schroeder’s nomination from Arthur B. Culvahouse, Jr., former White House Counsel to President Reagan; Ken Starr, former Solicitor General under President George H.W. Bush; 11 former high-ranking Justice Department officials; and Dean David F. Levi of Duke Law School, where Professor Schroeder has taught for many years.

Chris Schroeder is well-known to many of us in the Senate, having served in a number of positions, including Chief Counsel for the Judiciary Committee under Chairman Biden.  He has spent years in private practice and as a professor, including for the last 10 years as Director of the Program in Public Law at the Duke University Law School.  Professor Schroeder is also well-prepared for the position he has been nominated to fill due to his years of service in several high-ranking positions at the Justice Department.  He graduated from Princeton University and received his Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School before earning his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall) in 1974.  There is no question that Professor Schroeder is well-qualified to run the Office of Legal Policy.

It should not have required the majority leader to file cloture in order to end the Republican filibuster and for the Senate at last to have an up-or-down vote on Professor Schroeder’s nomination.  The nearly year long delay in considering his nomination in the Senate is a sign of the extent of the Republican effort to obstruct President Obama’s nominations.

The 11 months it has taken us to consider this nomination is a far cry from the way the Democrats treated President Bush’s nominations to run the Office of Legal Policy.  A Democratic majority confirmed President Bush’s first nominee to head that division, Viet Dinh, by a vote of 96 to one, only one month after he was nominated, and only a week after he his nomination was reported by the Committee.  The three nominees to that office that succeeded Mr. Dinh -- Daniel Bryant, Rachel Brand, and Elisabeth Cook -- were each confirmed by voice vote in a far shorter time than Professor Schroeder’s nomination has been pending.  Certainly none of those nominations were returned to the President without explanation; nor did they require cloture to be filed before being considered.   

I agree with Senator Franken’s observation on the Senate floor earlier this week concerning the Schroeder nomination.  He remarked that perhaps Republicans were blocking this nomination because Professor Schroeder has been nominated to lead the office that vets potential judicial nominees.   He is right.  To deflect criticism for their delays and obstruction of judicial nominations that have left 25 judicial nominations languishing on the Executive Calendar, Senate Republicans have tried to place the blame with the administration for sending too few nominees to the Senate.  But these same Republicans have held up Professor Schroeder’s nomination to lead the division at the Justice Department involved with reviewing and preparing judicial nominations for nearly a year.  

I know the Department and the administration will be grateful to have Professor Schroeder helping them prepare judicial nominations.  He has shown that he has a deep understanding of the proper role of a judge tasked with interpreting the Constitution.  As he emphasized in response to a question from Senator Sessions, “any interpretation of the Constitution must begin with the document’s text, history, structure and purposes, as well as judicial precedent. . . . [A] fundamental qualification for anyone being considered for a judicial appointment is that he or she understand the Constitution has binding force that must be applied faithfully in cases that come before any court, independent of his or her own policies or preferences.”

I want to thank Senator Kaufman, a valued member of the Judiciary Committee, for his dogged efforts in support of Professor Schroeder’s nomination and for his assistance in managing the debate today.  I congratulate Professor Schroeder and his family on his confirmation today.  I have every confidence he will be an effective and devoted public servant for the American people.

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