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Public Statements

Executive Session

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Location: Washington, DC

EXECUTIVE SESSION

Mr. INHOFE. Will the Senator yield for a question? I know his time is running out.

Mr. ALLEN. Yes.

Mr. INHOFE. I have been observing this all night long and all of these legal scholars. I admire you so much, although I have to admit I have often said that perhaps one of my best qualifications for being a Senator is that I am not a lawyer. When I read the Constitution, I know what it says. It is very clear what it says. It says advise and consent. It is a very important process.

The reason I wanted the Senator to yield is you have been justly talking about the qualities of Miguel Estrada. I have met him, too. He is such a humble man. When you hear the horrible things said about him, it makes you cry inside. There was one thing that all of these nominees the President nominated have in common, and that is they are also eminently qualified. You have talked about his qualifications. Besides that, he worked in both the Bush and Clinton administrations.

Also, look at the rest of the nominees. William Pryor is the youngest attorney general at the time he was appointed and was nominated by the President. He has the highest ranking of the American Bar Association. Priscilla Owen has the highest ranking of the ABA. In 2000, she won 84 percent of the vote. She was supported by three former Democrat judges from the Texas Supreme Court. Judge Pickering-99.5 percent of his cases were affirmed and not appealed.

I think we are talking about people who the President has done such a great job of singling out and finding, the most highly qualified people. I wanted to ask you that question. Isn't it true that everything you have said about Miguel Estrada and his qualifications is true about all these nominees?

Mr. ALLEN. It is. I very much agree with the Senator from Oklahoma. Miguel Estrada, Priscilla Owen, Judge Pryor, Judge Brown, and Judge Kuhl-they all have impeccable records. They have different experiences but great experience, and they are highly recommended by the people who know them best. This is a great way of judging their capabilities. Nonetheless, the facts don't seem to matter.

I close and say we need to act in accordance with the Constitution. The Constitution is important. Accountability is important. Fairness and justice are important. As a matter of principle, our judicial nominees deserve a fair and simple up-or-down vote. These nominees are individuals who are important for the function of justice in these various courts. And it is not just these three; there are others being obstructed.

I ask my colleagues to show some guts. Stand up and vote yes or vote no. Act responsibly. Since I started off with a Charlie Pride admonition and, unfortunately, we have not been able to "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" here on the Senate floor, why don't we follow Aaron Tippin's advice that "you got to stand for something." So why don't you stand. Vote yes or no on these judges but vote.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. INHOFE. I thank the Senator from Colorado for yielding to me.

Mr. President, I want to share an experience I had at 5:30 this morning. One has lots of experiences at 5:30 in the morning on the Senate floor and in observing what went on during the night. There was something that occurred to me that I want to share, and I hope I can do it in this period of time.

There are two reasons this has been taking place, that they do not want to confirm these judges. One is ideology, philosophy. I hate to say it but unless one is pro-abortion and unless they are anti-gun, they do not want that person on the bench. But there is another reason we have not talked about, and that reason is just a reason of obstruction. We have been watching obstruction in all forms, but I want to share something and I hope people understand that this directly relates to the nominees for the judicial vacancies. I want to get the point across that it is happening to other nominees as well.

I chair the Environment and Public Works Committee. We had a person who was a nominee of this President, Gov. Michael Leavitt from Utah, one of the most highly regarded individuals in this country and certainly one of the most highly qualified ever to be nominated to a position of Administrator of the EPA.

We sat there and recognized how everybody loved this guy and yet they dragged it on and obstructed for days and weeks, just to drag it on out. So it is happening with many of the nominees.

Now, Governor Leavitt is a very kind and decent person and I really believe the most qualified nominee to be Administrator of the EPA we have ever been able to act upon. The way he was treated was just absolutely shameful. It took 56 days to finally get the nomination, five times longer than those who preceded him as Administrator, even though he had overwhelming bipartisan support.

I do not think anyone has questioned that the motivation of the delay was partisan Presidential politics. They set a new standard, new precedent, for an EPA Administrator. They really were not talking so much about him as they were trying to talk about the environmental policies of this President.

If my colleagues will look at some of the people who supported him, we had many people, including my ranking member, Senator Jeffords. He said it has nothing to do with qualifications of the Governor. At this time, I would say that qualifications really do not seem to be an issue on judicial nominations. It has been said over and over again, and later if I have time within my timeframe I am going to get into that, but this goes on and talks about various Democrats praising Governor Leavitt for this nomination and yet they would not confirm him.

Senator Nelson, who is a former Governor of Nebraska, served with him as Governor. He said: I believe nearly everyone, if not everyone, with whom Governor Leavitt worked in the NGA-that is the National Governors Association-would state that they had a favorable impression of him. I wholeheartedly support Mike Leavitt to serve as EPA Administrator.

We heard the same thing from our old friend Bill Richardson with whom many of us served in the House of Representatives. He is currently Governor of New Mexico. He praises his virtues. He has worked effectively with other Governors regardless of party, and he went on to say he is probably the best nominee who has ever been put forth to be Administrator of the EPA.

So he is highly qualified and nobody would deny that, and yet they turn this thing into trying to attack the President on his environmental record.

I have to quote from one person, Gregg Easterbrook. I have not quoted him on this floor before. He is a liberal Democrat. He is a senior editor of the liberal New Republic. He says in an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times: The Democrats are not as interested in Bush's environmental record as they are attacking President Bush personally. He says: Most of the charges made against the White House are baloney-these are his words-and made for the purposes of partisan political bashing and fundraising. He also contends that environmental lobbyists raise money better in an atmosphere of panic. He goes on to explain the real reason this issue was going on. This man was subjected to a lot of things, including 100 prehearing questions, and later 400 questions prior to the hearing. This has never been done before.

Then we had an experience that has never happened in the history of this Senate. We went back as far as Jennings Randolph in the middle sixties. It never happened in the history of this committee. The Democrats boycotted the committee. They did not show up. We have 10 Republicans and Democrats. We have to have a majority there and two members of each party, at a minimum. So they boycotted and did not show up.

Time went on and we started looking at how long it took from the time of the nomination, to the hearing, to the confirmation. In the case of William Riley, it was 13 days; the case of Carol Browner, 10 days; in the case of Governor Whitman, it was 13 days. Yet it took 56 days for this person to be confirmed. Finally, they did confirm and the vote was 88 to 8.

I suggest today if we had the vote on Priscilla Owen, she would be sitting in the Fifth Circuit right now; and Miguel Estrada, the DC Court; William Pryor, the Eleventh Circuit; and Charles Pickering, the Fifth Circuit.
For a minute I will dwell, if the manager will give me a couple extra minutes, on Miguel Estrada. I saw something happening that I thought was significant. I will refer to something that happened to me February 26, 2003, a year ago, when we were talking about the confirmation process.

Mr. ALLARD. I am happy to extend an additional 2 minutes to the Senator from Oklahoma.

Mr. INHOFE. We had a group in Oklahoma at that time that was there from San Luis Potosi, a sister city in Mexico. We have a sizable Hispanic community in Oklahoma. I was mayor of Tulsa, and I recall how excited the people were each year when they saw people striving to achieve, Hispanics in this country.

I was standing before the crowd and said:

Como acalde de la cuidad de Tulsa, yo quiero decir, "Bien venidos, bien venidos a la cuidad. Creemos que la cuidad de San Luis Potosi es la cuidad mas hermosa de todas las cuidades del mundo."

(Translation)

As the mayor of the city of Tulsa, I want to say, "Welcome, welcome to the city. We believe the city of San Luis Potosi is the most beautiful city of all the cities in the world."

I saw the looks on their faces, realizing we were participating in their culture. They are looking at Miguel Estrada saying, Why won't they give him a chance to reach the top? Why is it that he does not get a chance for high office, he or any other Hispanic?

I tried to answer. I believed there might be a way of garnering support to make this reality. I said:

Muchos Hispános estan escuchando ahora . . . y yo quiero decir.

Por descrácia, hay personas en el senádo que no quieren escuchar a ni una palabra de la verdad.

Yo invito a la communidad hispána para llama a sus senadores para insistir en los derechos de Miguel Estrada y en la confirmación de juéces de los Estados Unidos.

(Translation)

Many Hispanic Americans are listening right now . . . and I want to say:

Disgracefully, there are people in the Senate that don't want to listen to even one word of the truth.

I invite the Hispanic community to call their senators to insist on the rights of Miguel Estrada and on the confirmation of the judges of the United States.

People were calling in but it did not get the message across to the people on that side of the aisle that there must be some other reason that they do not want Miguel Estrada to be confirmed.

Congress is a powerful institution and it is necessary to have the ability to collect and challenge much of what the President does, but when it comes to the courts and to interpreting laws and regulations, politics needs to get out of the way. Justice delayed is justice denied. I believe we are in a position to do some things and turn this around and get some of these people confirmed.

My guess is residents of California, who had their constitution gutted by a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit, only to have a larger panel of the same circuit reinstate their constitutionally authorized gubernatorial recall election, think it is pretty important who sits on the Ninth Circuit.

I had an experience this morning debating one of our fine Senators, Mr. Lautenberg. I said at that time this is about ideology. I don't think anyone-after listening to all the debate that has gone on overnight-does not realize if you are not pro-abortion, if you are not anti-gun, you will be in opposition, and we will not get confirmation. It is wrong. All we want is an up-or-down vote on these fine nominees.

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