Statement Of Senator Leahy On The Lewis Nomination And On Lewis Nomination And Obstruction In The Senate

[WASHINGTON (Monday, June 18, 2012) – The Senate will vote tonight at 5:30 p.m. on the nomination of Mary Geiger Lewis to be United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina. The nomination was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and spoke on the Senate floor today about the nomination. Leahy’s full statement can be read on his website.]


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

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On The Nomination Of Mary Geiger Lewis To The U.S. District Court For The District Of South Carolina

June 18, 2012

Last week, Senate Republicans announced that they would be shutting down and blocking the confirmation process for qualified and consensus circuit court nominees for the rest of the year.  That is unfortunate and does nothing to help the American people or our courts, which continue to be overburdened while consensus nominees for vacancies that could be filled are being stalled. 

It is hard to see how this new application of the Thurmond Rule is really anything more than another name for the stalling tactics we have seen for months and years. I have yet to hear any good reason why we should not continue to vote on well-qualified, consensus nominees, just as we did up until September of the last two presidential election years.  I have yet to hear a good explanation as to why we cannot work to solve the problem of high vacancies for the American people.  I will continue to work with the Senate leadership to try to confirm as many of President Obama’s qualified judicial nominees as possible to fill the many judicial vacancies that burden our courts and the American people across the country. 

I was heartened to see that the senior Senator from Maine has said that she will continue to work with the bipartisan Senate leadership in an effort to bring this Maine nominee to the First Circuit before the Senate for a confirmation vote.  I trust that the many Republican Senators who joined Senator Kyl and Senator McCain in opposing the filibuster of Justice Hurwitz will now join to oppose the filibusters of William Kayatta of Maine, Judge Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma, Judge Shwartz of New Jersey, and Richard Taranto for the Federal Circuit.  I would hope that the Senators from South Carolina, whose state’s nominee we consider today, will aid this effort just as we have worked with them throughout the process to ensure that they were consulted by the President and that they consented to proceeding with this nominee from their home state.  I hope that they will show that courtesy to other Senators.

This pattern of obstruction from Senate Republicans has been as transparent as the Senate Republican leader’s statement that “the single most important thing [Senate Republicans] want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”  Just as they obstruct his qualified judicial nominees, they reject virtually every effort this President has made to improve the economy and to create jobs.  They are the party of “no”—no help for the American people, no to jobs, no to economic recovery, no to police, firefighters and teachers, no to students needing help paying for education, no to consumer protection, no to assisting state and local governments, no to the highway bill and no to any more judges. 

Regrettably, the obstruction of judicial nominations is just one of many examples of Republicans saying no, or simply going slow.  I know Vermonters cannot wait while politics trump sound policy efforts here in Washington.  It is time for a reality check.

While our economy has shown some signs of progress since the economic collapse a few years ago, there is no doubt that domestic job growth has not been as strong as we had hoped.  Too many Vermonters are still looking for work, so we need to continue looking for ways to spur job growth and economic investment in this country.  Unfortunately, efforts in Congress to increase jobs, reduce unemployment, and support hardworking American families struggling to keep food on the table and roofs over their heads meet with partisan obstruction, too.

While Congress delays, the clock is ticking down for the millions of Americans struggling to afford college, and those struggling to pay back student loan debt after they graduate.

In less than two weeks, millions of jobs will be put on hold when critical transportation programs, including funding for the Highway Trust Fund, expire.  Failing to pass a long term transportation bill jeopardizes thousands of construction and development projects, impacting millions of jobs around the country.

In a little over one month, important legislation to extend the National Flood Insurance Program will expire.  The failure to reauthorize this important program puts at risk the sale of thousands of homes at a time when our housing market is still trying to recover. 

Meanwhile, in this election year, Republicans in Congress are more intent on extending the Bush-era tax cuts that contributed to the financial crisis facing us today than in working together to move forward with reasonable policies to bolster economic growth and development. 

This Congress has shown what it can do when it casts partisan politics aside, and comes to consensus on meaningful job creating – and job preservation – legislation.  The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act is among the best examples of laws enacted in this Congress to promote our American economy and create American jobs.  Regrettably, it is one of only a few job-creating bills enacted this Congress.

So I am disheartened to hear Republican leaders in Congress say that we are simply done legislating for the year.  The reality check is that Vermonters and other Americans cannot wait.  President Obama has signaled his commitment to moving forward with job creating legislation to get Americans back to work and to protect America’s leadership in the global marketplace.  Let us put the politics aside, and focus on the right policy and on the needs of the American people.  Let us act on behalf of the people who sent us here.  It is past time for the games to end and the work to begin.

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