DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (Senate - July 26, 2007)
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CONDOLENCES TO SENATOR NORM COLEMAN AND FAMILY
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, let me notify all Members of the Senate that Senator Norm Coleman's father passed away this morning. Therefore, he missed the vote that we just had and will be missing votes for the remainder of this week. I know I speak for all Members of the Senate in sending our condolences to Senator Coleman and his family at this very sad time. We look forward to having him back in the Senate in due time.
NOMINATION OF JUDGE LESLIE SOUTHWICK
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I wish to make a few observations about the nomination of Judge Leslie Southwick to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Over the past few days, members of the Democratic leadership have commented about Judge Southwick's nomination. These comments have, in my view, mischaracterized his record and his service to the people of his State. Worse still, some of our Democratic colleagues have made insinuations about the commitment of this fine man to the principle of equal justice for all. These gross insinuations are, of course, at odds with the views of his peers and his home State Senators, both of whom actually know him.
So over the next several days, we will continue to set the record straight, as the ranking member did so ably yesterday, to ensure that the Senate does not treat dishonorably an honorable man, a fine judge, and a courageous war veteran. Judge Southwick deserves more from this country than insinuation and innuendo. This leads me to a much broader point.
My friend, the majority leader, and I have an understanding--at least I believe we had an understanding--as to how this Senate would treat judicial nominees in general. A fundamental component of that understanding is that individual nominees will be treated fairly. That commitment to fair treatment may be in serious jeopardy with the Southwick nomination.
I remind my colleagues that the Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Judge Southwick for a lifetime appointment to the district court just last fall, but it is now threatening to kill his nomination on a party-line vote in committee. The only material change in Judge Southwick's qualifications between last fall and now is the rating of the American Bar Association, the Democrats' gold standard for judicial nominees. The ABA has actually increased its rating of Judge Southwick. In other words, they have given him a higher rating for the circuit court than for the district court. Judge Southwick was rated ``well qualified'' for the district court. He is now rated ``unanimously well qualified,'' which means every single member of the committee who took a look at his credentials for the circuit court found Judge Southwick well qualified. That is the highest possible rating one can achieve for a judicial nomination from the American Bar Association.
It goes without saying that for committee Democrats to oppose Judge Southwick for the circuit court after having supported him for the district without any change in the man's record would certainly fall far short of treating the man fairly.
I encourage my Democratic colleagues to think hard about the implications of unfair treatment for Judge Southwick for this Congress and, for that matter, for future Congresses.
I thank the Chair, and I yield the floor.
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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished minority whip, Mr. Lott, for pointing out for the Senate a few moments ago the importance of rule XVI. I also want to thank the junior Senator from South Carolina for understanding, as well, that is a rule that has occasionally been reversed and restored in the Senate, and I think it is important to most of us that it continue to be in effect.
I also thank the majority leader and Senator Vitter for the colloquy we just heard. I think it is entirely possible for us to conduct our business in a civil fashion. I think we have just experienced a good example of the Senate working together on a bipartisan basis to get back together and to begin to move forward and finish this bill as soon as possible. Certainly, I share the views of the majority leader that we need to wrap up this bill in the very near future.
I yield the floor.
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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, today marks an important milestone for this Congress. It seems that after spending the first half of the year staging political show-votes and investigations, our friends on the other side have woken up to the fact they only had two things to show for it: an angrier base and a long to-do list. In the fog of battle they forgot that getting things done in the Senate takes cooperation.
We have cooperated on this bill. And it is a lot better for it. I am extremely pleased the majority ultimately accepted Senator Graham's border security amendment. We got the message last month: border security first. And now, thanks to this effort, we will be delivering a $3 billion downpayment on a stronger border. I also appreciate Senator Cornyn's insistence that interior enforcement be a part of that funding. To us it's pretty simple: there is no homeland security without border security. We will continue to push this idea on the floor of the Senate in the coming weeks and months. Today is just the beginning.
A lesson we can learn from the last 6 months is that there is a cost to everything. And the cost of putting off legislating in favor of around-the-clock politics is that there isn't much to show for it in the end.
It has been my view all along that we should have been working on appropriations bills all summer. Here we are almost in August and we have only passed one. So we are looking at a potential train wreck in September. But it is possible that if we work together, like we did this time, we can still make good progress. And I hope we do.
A brief word about cloture. Look: anybody who has been in the Senate for more than a week will tell you--if they are being honest--that 40 or so cloture votes in 6 months isn't a sign of minority obstruction; it is a sign of a majority that doesn't like the rules. The cloture club shouldn't be the first option. It should be the last. Hopefully today's vote is also a sign that we are moving away from cloture as a first resort.
I hope the majority will follow through on a pledge that the senior Senator from Illinois made on the first day of the session. He said the American people put Democrats in the majority ``to find solutions, not to play to a draw with nothing to show for it.'' Very well said.
My Republican colleagues hope we can operate this way. I think it will be the best way to operate in the fall if we actually intend to legislate.