Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On Rosenbaum Nomination And Calls To The GOP Leadership To End Obstruction

[WASHINGTON (Tuesday, June 26, 2012) – The Senate will vote today on the nomination of Robin Rosenbaum to be a United States District Judge for the Southern District of Florida. The nomination was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, and is one of 17 district and circuit nominations pending on the Senate calendar.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and spoke on the Senate Floor Tuesday about the nomination and Republican obstruction of consensus nominees. 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 Robin Rosenbaum To The U.S. District Court For The Southern District Of Florida

June 26, 2012

The Republican efforts to shut down Senate confirmations of qualified judicial nominees who have bipartisan support do not help the American people.  This is a shortsighted policy at a time when the judicial vacancy rate remains almost twice what it was at this point in the first term of President Bush.  Judicial vacancies during the last few years have been at historically high levels.  Nearly one out of every 11 Federal judgeships is currently vacant.  Their talk of shutting down confirmations for consensus and qualified circuit court nominees is not helping the overburdened Federal courts to which Americans turn for justice. 

Senate Republicans are blocking consent to vote on superbly qualified circuit court nominees with strong bipartisan support.  This is a new and damaging application of the Thurmond Rule.

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 a good explanation why we cannot work to solve the problem of high vacancies for the American people.

Last week, I spoke about the announcement from Senate Republican leadership that they would be shutting down the confirmation process for qualified and consensus circuit court nominees for the rest of the year.  As I noted, Senate Republicans have become the party of “no” – no help for the American people, no to jobs, no to economic recovery and no to judges to provide Americans with justice in their Federal courts.

The American people need to understand that Senate Republicans are stalling and filibustering judicial nominees supported by their home state Republican Senators.  Just two weeks ago we needed to overcome a filibuster to confirm Justice Andrew Hurwitz of the Arizona Supreme Court to the Ninth Circuit despite the strong support of Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain. 

This year started with the Majority Leader having to file cloture to get an up-or-down vote on Judge Adalberto Jordan of Florida to the Eleventh Circuit even though he was strongly supported by his Republican home state Senator.  And every single one of these circuit nominees for whom the Majority Leader was forced to file cloture this year was rated unanimously well qualified by the nonpartisan ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, the highest possible rating.  And every one of them was nominated to fill a judicial emergency vacancy.  So when I hear some Senate Republicans say they are now invoking the Thurmond Rule and have decided they are not going to allow President Obama’s judicial nominees to be considered, I wonder how the American people are supposed to be able to tell the difference from how they have been obstructing for the last three and one half years.

In the past five presidential election years, Senate Democrats have never denied an up-or-down vote to any circuit court nominee of a Republican president who received bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee.  That is what Senate Republicans are now seeking to do by blocking votes on William Kayatta, Judge Bacharach and Richard Taranto.

Personal attacks on me, taking quotes out of context, trying to repackage their own actions as if following the Thurmond Rule or what they seek to dub the Leahy Rule do nothing to help the American people who are seeking justice in our Federal courts.  I am willing to defend my record but that is beside the point.  The harm to the American people is what matters.  Republicans are insisting on being the party of no even when it comes to judicial nominees who home state Republican Senators support.

As Chairman and when I served as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, I have worked with Senate Republicans to consider judicial nominees well into presidential election years.  I have taken steps to make the confirmation process more transparent and fair.  I have ensured that the President consults with home state Senators before submitting a nominee.  I have opened up what had been a secretive blue slip process to prevent abuses.  All the while I have protected the rights of the minority, of Republican Senators.  If Republicans want to talk about the Leahy Rules, those are the practices I have followed.  And I have been consistent.  I hold hearings at the same pace and under the same procedures whether the President nominating is a Democrat or a Republican.  Others cannot say that.

As Chairman of this Committee, I have steadfastly protected the rights of the minority.  I have done so despite criticism from Democrats.  I have only proceeded with judicial nominations supported by both home state Senators.  That has meant that we are not able to proceed on current nominees from Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Louisiana.  I even stopped proceedings on a circuit court nominee from Kansas when the Kansas Republican Senators reversed themselves and withdrew their support for the nominee.  I had to deny the Majority Leader’s request to push a Nevada nominee through Committee because she did not have the support of Nevada’s Republican Senator.  I will put my record of consistent fairness up against that of any Judiciary chairman.

So those are the Leahy Rules – respect for and protection of minority rights, increased transparency, consistency, and allowing for confirmations well into presidential election years for nominees with bipartisan support.

After today’s vote, we need to continue confirming nominees.  At a time when judicial vacancies remained historically high for three years, with 30 more vacancies and 30 fewer confirmations than at this point in President Bush’s first term, I would hope the Senate Republican leadership would reconsider and work with us on filling these longstanding judicial vacancies to help the American people.  We have well-qualified, consensus nominees with bipartisan support who can fill these vacancies.  It is only partisan politics and continued tactics of obstruction that stand in the way.

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