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Interview With Orrin Hatch

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May 9, 2003 Friday

HEADLINE: Interview With Orrin Hatch

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The judicial confirmation process is broken. And it must be fixed for the good of the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: But does everyone agree? Joining us from Salt Lake City is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a good friend, Senator Orrin Hatch.

Senator Hatch, it has got ounce of control; it is broken. Top-notch quality people have waited over two years, and they can't get an up and down vote because senators now want to change the rules of the constitution to go from advise to consent to a super majority. And you guys are now—have a plan to deal with this. Tell us what you have in mind.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH: Well, of course, Senator Frist signed a bill today, S138, that would basically provide that you can—you can't file cloture until after 12 hours of debate. But each successive vote—you actually reduce the number of votes necessary to invoke cloture from 60 down to actually 51 and then a simple majority.

It would take 13 legislative days to do this, but it would be a way of resolving this problem in a manner that would be fair and just.

HANNITY: Yes, Senator...

HATCH: And Democrats have been filibustering people, who have unanimous well-qualified ratings...

HANNITY: Right.

HATCH: ... from their gold standard, the American Bar Association, certainly not a conservative organization. And they're doing it without any justification at all, other than vindictiveness for what they thought were problems that occurred during the Clinton years. And keep in mind, Clinton got as many judges confirmed...

HANNITY: Right.

HATCH: ... with six years of a Republican Senate as President Reagan, who was the all-time confirmation champion

HANNITY: And let the record show, Senator, if we can, for the sake of the audience, what is now going to happen, the bypassing of this obstruction by the Democrats, similar to proposals by Senators like Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman and Tom Harkin and proposals they've made in the past.

I want to read you something, though, because in years past, during the Clinton years, I went back and did a little research, Senator, and I found Tom Daschle. I find it baffling the Senator would vote against even voting on a judicial nomination.

Harry Reid said the same thing. Pat Leahy condemned not having an up or down vote. Ed Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Harkin, Levin, others, these guys all are on record during the Clinton years saying give us a vote. And now there's a Republican president, and in spite of—I even have their talking points; they're spinning like crazy—they want to allow a vote, a fair up and down vote for the president's nominees.

HATCH: Well, that's true. There has never been this type of obstruction in the history of the Senate. We have never had a filibuster of a circuit court or district court nominee in the history of the Senate until—two people, who have unanimous, well-qualified American Bar Association ratings, meaning they're not only in the mainstream, they're among the best lawyers around. And that's Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen. And they've indicated there may be as many as three others they're going to filibuster.

They are not being fair to the president. They're not being fair to the independents of the judiciary. They're not being fair to the process, and the process is broken.

HANNITY: Well, you're a constitutional attorney, Senator, and this is important to point out here because this really, more than anything else, is a constitutional issue, because there are only seven places—correct me if I'm wrong—in the constitution, by my arithmetic, that requires super majority votes. Instances like the approval of treaties, conviction of impeached officials, theos and so forth get—am I wrong, seven is the number?

HATCH: That's right. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) clause is in Article II. Just two lines above the Advise and Consent that the Senate is to give to executive nominees is a clause for requiring a two-thirds vote for ratification of treaties.

Had the founding fathers wanted a super majority vote of 60 to confirm judges, they would have written it in. So it's clear that Advise and Consent is a simple majority vote. And it's always been that up until President Bush has become president and has been nominating these people.

HANNITY: But the bottom line here is the Republicans have decided to stand up and implement procedures that will—parliamentary procedures—that have only been, as I understand it, from one parliamentary historian, two other times in history where you are going to change the rules, adapt new rules so that they can no longer obstruct this way. Am I correct, and can you explain to...

HATCH: Well...

HANNITY: Go ahead.

HATCH: Well, we haven't reached that point yet, but there is a way that we can actually, with a simple majority vote, require an up and down vote on the Senators. I won't go into that fully. It was mentioned in "The Hill" newspaper this week.

We'd like not to have to do that. That's why the Senator—the leader in the Senate, Bill Frist, and I and others have come up with a way of giving them a chance to delay a vote. But finally there has to be a vote, a simple majority vote in the end, after so many clotures.

COLMES: Senator, it's Alan. Good to have you back on the program.

HATCH: Nice to talk to you.

COLMES: As you know, we've—I've said to you many times, I'd like to see it go to the full floor. I'm against the obstructionism.

HATCH: All Right.

COLMES: We had Tom Daschle on here last week. I ask him about that, why are you obstructing? However, it's disingenuous not to suggest that you guys did it too when the tide was reversed. John Ashcroft was against a full Senate vote for Ronnie White because he didn't agree with one decision White made on the death penalty.

The Democrats—I should say the Senate has approved about 122 judicial nominees for President Bush, and they've maybe stopped two or three. So you're holding up a couple that have stopped, which should go to the floor—I agree—but the numbers are really in the favor of confirming most of the people, overwhelmingly, who have been put forth by this president.

HATCH: Well, I agree with you that, literally, this process is broken, that we have never before had this kind of obstruction in the United States Senate. Now, John Ashcroft did go against Ronnie White, but it wasn't because of one decision. It was because 73 law enforcement people in his state came out against White at the last minute.

COLMES: But he didn't want a full Senate vote either, just like—you're saying you want it at least to go to the floor.

HATCH: No, no, no.

COLMES: You guys did the same thing to Democrats.

HATCH: No we didn't do the same thing. And one thing about John Ashcroft, he never held up a vote. In fact, John Ashcroft could have held Ronnie White up in committee. I asked him, I said is it all right for me to call him up? He said, yes it is. He said, but just make sure that I vote no on the record. I side fine.

He never held anybody up. He did vote against some people, and I felt there were some that he could have voted for. But the fact is, no Republican really—there were some who wanted to filibuster. I stopped it, and so did our leadership. We just plain didn't think it was right, constitutionally or otherwise. And we wouldn't permit it, but the Democrats are permitting it.

COLMES: The National Women's Law Center is reporting that when you chaired the Judiciary Committee from 1995 to 2001, many highly-qualified judicial nominees received no hearing, including D.C. Circuit Judge Elena Kagan, two Hispanic nominees of the 5th Circuit, Jorge Rangel and Enrique Moreno, and a nominee for the 6th Circuit. It went over four years without a hearing, Helene White. That's what they are reporting. Is that true or untrue?

HATCH: Most of that is pure bunk. Let me explain that Jorge Rangle and Moreno, there was no consultation with the two Senators from Texas. Under those circumstances, I don't think any Judicial Committee chairman would have brought them up.

Elena Kagan I feel badly about. She was one who didn't make it through. The four-year person was Piaz, but Piaz had all kinds of problems. Audibly, I was the one who broke through that, and, along with Senator Specter, we were the only ones who voted for him, but I was the one who put him through.

Now, there were many reasons why he was delayed for those four years. And all of which I think were justified. But to make a long story short, none of them were filibustered against. And by the way, we had less holdovers at the end of Clinton's presidency than almost any other prior presidency. And certainly, a lot less than when the Democrats controlled the committee and George Bush one was president.

There were 54 holdovers at that time, and when the Democrats controlled, there were 41 when I was in control. And nine of those were put up in the last to weeks, so late that nobody could have gotten them through.

HANNITY: We'll take a break. We'll continue more with Senator Hatch right after this break.

And coming up, you will not see our next guest because she fears for her life. She wrote a book how she's escaped from Iraq and now helps the U.S. find terrorist here in the United States.

Then should the United States government be liable for the deaths of illegals who die trying to sneak into this country? The families of some of these people are suing.

And later, why can't Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas speak at the University of Georgia Law School?

And we have an update on that story in the high school girl hazing case, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLMES: We're back on HANNITY & COLMES. Coming up, the U.S. is getting sued by the families of 14 illegal immigrants that died crossing the border. We'll bring you the details.

And back now to Senator Orrin Hatch.

Senator, this issue of who obstructs more than the other. There's a lot of finger pointing going on here.

HATCH: Yes, sir.

COLMES: A study co-authored—I don't know if you know the study done by Elliot Schloknik (ph) of the University of Ohio—or Ohio State I should say, and Sheldon Goldwyn (ph) of the University of Massachusetts. And they showed that the 1992 Democratic-controlled Senate took 90 days, on average, to hold hearings on Bush's 41 nominees, and the Senate of '98 took an average of 160 days on President Clinton's nominees. So would you say that there's obstruction going on, in the terms of what—in terms of Bill Clinton and what he tried to get through?

HATCH: There were a few Republicans, I have to admit, who dragged their feet. But I have to say part of that was because the Clinton administration wasn't putting up the judges quite as fast, and then at times when they did, we couldn't get the hearings done as quickly.

I have to say that there were things that happened I think in every administration that I wish hadn't happened, but we've never had the obstruction that we have in this administration. We've never had a filibuster against a circuit court nominee before.

COLMES: Isn't it true that when Bill Clinton was president, there was the accusation that some nominees were purposely held up, hoping you would get a Republican president and that they could be approved then? And ironically, Estrada's seat was not filled. Bill Clinton tried to fill it, but he never could. It never got voted on it.

HATCH: Well, he did fill a number of the seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. And I was the one who got those judges through, and they were all liberal judges.

My attitude was that, whoever is president has the right to have his nominees called up in committee and voted on the floor. And the vast majority were. In fact, keep in mind, Reagan got 382 judges through. He was the all-time champion, and he had six years of a Republican Senate, his own party, to help him. Clinton got the same number, virtually. He had 377, and he had only two years of a Democrat Senate.

So how did he get all those? Because Orrin Hatch was chairman, and I believe that we should give him fair treatment, and we did.

HANNITY: You did, Senator, to your credit.

HATCH: You bet we did, I'll tell you.

HANNITY: You absolutely did.

HATCH: We never did anything like this. Now admittedly, there were a couple of Republicans who wanted to filibuster, and I shut them down, and so did our leadership. We said we're not going to filibuster judges; it's unconstitutional.

HANNITY: It's a tribute to you and the fairness you've always had, Senator.

I want to ask you a political question.

HATCH: Sure.

HANNITY: Democrats now, all across the board, to my estimation, they seem very bitter. Tell me if you agree.

HATCH: They are really bitter.

HANNITY: They won't do on the judicial nomination. They won't give the president any credit for the victory in Iraq, probably because they opposed the war. They even go after the "missing and stolen artifacts," for landing on an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln.

And now, liberal groups have even come out with this insane, ridiculous ad talking the president. I want to see what you think this is about.

HATCH: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can always count on Americans in a crisis, so these people gave blood, but not for our troops in Iraq. No, George Bush's tax cuts for the rich have meant less money for education, so they have to sell their blood to raise money for their children's school. Now Bush wants to cut $9 billion from education to pay for more tax cuts for the rich. Is this the America we want to live in? George Bush, putting rich people first.

HANNITY: It's pretty pathetic.

HATCH: That kind of b.s. is what's really making politics even worse. I have to say, when you see Democrats voting in unison on everything to stop President Bush, you know something's wrong with the system. You know that there's bitterness. You know that there's just a system that's starting to go out of whack. And that type of an ad, that should not be dignified by any way.

HANNITY: Well, they're trying to say that people are selling their blood for these cuts that don't exist.

HATCH: Yes, and that's ridiculous.

HANNITY: Spending is going up 9 percent this year, Senator.

HATCH: That's right.

HANNITY: Last year, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) percent.

HATCH: We are spending more than we've ever spent, and it's out of control. When we went through the budget, the Democrats put up well over $1 trillion in additional spending to what we have now.

I mean, I they had their way, my gosh, we couldn't keep anything under control. But we're spending a lot of money on healthcare, a lot of money on individual problems.

Look, I, myself, have put through a child health insurance program, a whole raft of other healthcare bills to help people, the childcare development block grant. You can go right down the line. And we've tried very, very hard to be sensitive and compassionate with people's needs.

But that type of an ad doesn't—I mean, it's beneath dignity.

COLMES: Senator, I'm getting the feeling you don't like the ad. It seems like it's pretty effective.

HATCH: I think that's right.

COLMES: Thank you very much.

HATCH: I don't think it's effective at all. You'd have to be an idiot to believe that.

COLMES: Oh, all right. Thank you for being with us tonight, Sir.

HATCH: Nice to be with both of you. And, Alan, I don't think you're an idiot.

COLMES: Thanks for taking that back. Coming up...

HANNITY: That was a compliment, if I ever heard one.

COLMES: As the lovely Orrin Hatch says, Colmes is not an idiot. All right.

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