Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to urge my colleagues to vote in support of Thomas Rice. He has been nominated to serve as the next Federal judge for the Eastern District of my home State of Washington.
Mr. Rice is a distinguished attorney who has dedicated his professional career to serving the public in the U.S. Attorney's Office. In that time he has earned the respect of Federal judges, opposing defense attorneys, his fellow prosecutors, and local law enforcement officials.
Mr. Rice has a deep connection to eastern Washington and its legal community. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in accounting, and then he returned on a full scholarship to earn his law degree. After earning that degree, Mr. Rice moved directly into public service as a trial attorney with the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. He then returned to the Eastern District to work in the U.S. Attorney's Office, climbing the ranks to become the first U.S. attorney responsible for the management of the Spokane office, and he is currently the highest ranking career DOJ official in the Eastern District.
Over his 20 years of practice, Mr. Rice has tried over 1,000 criminal cases dealing with nearly every area of Federal law. He has gone above and beyond his duties, volunteering additional hours at the office, taking on extra cases, and establishing the local Antiterrorism Advisory Council, which brings together representatives from every law enforcement agency in the Eastern District.
As the assistant U.S. attorney, he has earned the reputation of being tough on crime but also levelheaded and fair in the conduct of his prosecutions. Mr. Rice clearly meets the standards of fairness, evenhandedness, and adherence to the law we expect of our Federal judges.
I know I speak on behalf of so many in the Washington State legal community in supporting his nomination today. Mr. Rice's nomination was the product of a bipartisan selection commission we use in the State of Washington, and he received strong endorsements from both sides of the aisle.
We continue to use our bipartisan selection process in Washington State, despite the fact that it does take more time and a lot of effort, because it works to select judges of the highest quality and because it is intended to remove partisanship in the selection of our judges. You would think someone such as Thomas Rice would be able to move through this process very quickly and get to work on the court. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have slowed down and delayed this vote. Mr. Rice's nomination was actually reported unanimously out of the Judiciary Committee in October of last year, with strong bipartisan support--almost 4 months ago. But his nomination has sat on the Executive Calendar because some Senate Republicans refuse to consent to debate and vote on nominations just like his. I have not heard any objections from Republicans about Mr. Rice's qualifications, nor have I heard any Republican claim they have been unfairly blocked from any process. This delay is the result of an unprecedented effort by Senate Republicans to delay and block all of President Obama's judicial nominees.
There are now 20 judicial nominations reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee that are still sitting in wait on a final Senate vote. Fourteen of those nominations have been pending since last year and should have been confirmed before the end of last year. Eighteen of those nominations received strong bipartisan support from the Judiciary Committee. They deserve to move through this process in a fair way and get a vote here on the floor of the Senate--especially when both sides have agreed they are going to pass--because even though Republicans are making this about politics here in DC, this does have a real impact on our families and the court system throughout America. Nearly 10 percent of the Federal judgeships remain vacant right now, and 130 million Americans live in districts or circuits that have a vacancy that could be filled today if the Republican obstruction would end on nominations that have been vetted, considered, and favorably reported by the Judiciary Committee, including families in the Eastern District of my home State. This kind of obstruction is not good for our country. It hurts families' ability to access the courts in a timely fashion, and it puts politics ahead of our judicial system.
I urge all of our colleagues today to vote in support of Thomas Rice. He is a great lawyer, and he is a community leader who I believe will make an exceptional Federal judge.
I really come today to also call on Republicans to end their obstruction and allow us to move forward quickly on debates and votes on these judicial nominations that have been backlogged for far too long.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT