06.28.10

Statement On Confirmation Of Gary Scott Feinerman to Federal Court

Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, today the Senate is proceeding on only one of the 23 judicial nominees stalled by Republican obstruction from action by the Senate. The nominee the Senate will confirm tonight has been stalled for more than 10 weeks, even though his nomination was reported without a single objection from the Judiciary Committee on April 15. There are eight other judicial nominees who have been stalled for at least as long, or longer, and nominees who were favorably reported last year, last November, still being obstructed.

   This confirmation was needlessly delayed for no good purpose. The services of this judge are sorely needed in the Northern District of Illinois. I congratulate Mr. Feinerman and his family on his confirmation today.

   The Senate Republican leadership refuses to enter into time agreements on pending judicial nominations. That stalling and obstruction is unprecedented. They refuse to enter into a time agreement to consider the North Carolina nominees to the Fourth Circuit, who were reported in January, despite the fact that one was reported unanimously and one with only a single negative vote. They refuse to enter into a time agreement to debate and vote on the Sixth Circuit nominee from Tennessee who was reported last November. I have told Senator Alexander that all Democrats are prepared to vote on that nomination, and have agreed to do so since November. It is his own leadership that continues to obstruct the nominee.

   The Senate is well behind the pace I set for President Bush's judicial nominees in 2001 and 2002. A useful comparison is that in 2002, the second year of the Bush administration, the Democratic Senate majority's hard work led to the confirmation of 72 Federal circuit and district judges nominated by a President from the other party. In this second year of the Obama administration, we have confirmed just 22 so far--72 to 22.

   In the first 2 years of the Bush administration, we confirmed 100 Federal circuit and district court judges. So far in the first 2 years of the Obama administration, the Republican leadership has successfully obstructed all but 34 of his Federal circuit and district court nominees--100 to 34. We confirmed twice that many in just 2002. Meanwhile Federal judicial vacancies around the country hover around 100.

   By this date in President Bush's Presidency, the Senate had confirmed 57 of his judicial nominees. Despite the fact that President Obama began sending us judicial nominations two months earlier than did President Bush, the Senate has to date only confirmed 34 of his Federal circuit and district court nominees--57 to 34.

   Last year, Senate Republicans refused to move forward on judicial nominees. The Senate confirmed the fewest judges in 50 years. The Senate Republican leadership allowed only 12 Federal circuit and district court nominees to be considered and confirmed despite the availability of many more for final action. They have continued their obstruction throughout this year. By every measure, the Republican obstruction is a disaster for the Federal courts and for the American people.

   To put this into historical perspective, consider this: In 1982, the second year of the Reagan administration, the Senate confirmed 47 judges. In 1990, the second year of the George H.W. Bush administration, the Senate confirmed 55 judges. In 1994, the second year of the Clinton administration, the Senate confirmed 99 judges. In 2002, the second year of the George W. Bush administration, the Senate confirmed 72 judges. The only year comparable to this year's record-setting low total of 16 was 1996, when the Republican Senate majority refused to consider President Clinton's judicial nominees and only 17 were confirmed all session.

   Senate Democrats moved forward with judicial nominees whether the President was Democratic, 1994, or Republican, 1982, 1990, 2002, and whether

they were in the Senate majority, 1990, 1994, 2002, or in the Senate minority, 1982. Senate Republicans, by contrast, have shown an unwillingness to consider judicial nominees of Democratic Presidents, 1996, 2009, 2010.

   Over the last recess, I sent a letter to Senator McConnell and to the majority leader concerning these matters. In that letter, I urged, as I have since last December, the Senate to schedule votes on these nominations without further obstruction or delay. I called on the Republican leadership to work with the majority leader to schedule immediate votes on consensus nominations--many, like that finally being considered today, I expect will be confirmed unanimously--and consent to time agreements on those on which debate is requested. As I said in the letter, if there are judicial nominations that Republicans truly wish to filibuster--after arguing during the Bush administration that such action would be unconstitutional and wrong--then they should so indicate to allow the majority leader to seek cloture to end the filibuster. It is outrageous that the majority leader will be forced to file cloture petitions to get votes on the North Carolina, Tennessee and other nominees.

   After this confirmation, there will still be 22 judicial nominees favorably reported by the Judiciary Committee being stalled from Senate consideration by the Republican leadership.

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