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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, after months of unjustifiable delays, the Senate will finally be allowed to vote on one of President Obama's qualified, consensus judicial nominees. The nomination of Paul William Grimm to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland was reported by the Judiciary Committee nearly-unanimously 6 months ago. Judge Grimm and the people of Maryland have been forced to wait 6 months for this day for no good reason. He is one of the 19 judicial nominees who should have been confirmed before the August recess.

Since 1997 Judge Grimm has served as a United States Magistrate Judge and since 2007 as Chief Magistrate Judge on the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Prior to joining the bench, Judge Grimm had wide legal experience as a lawyer in Maryland State government, private practice, and as a Judge Advocate General. The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously rated him ``well qualified'' to serve on the U.S. District Court, its highest possible rating. He has the strong support of his home State Senators, Senator Mikulski and Senator Cardin. There was no opposition on the merits to his confirmation when he was considered by the Republican and Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee.

This is another judicial nominee whose service has been stalled by unnecessary, partisan obstruction. In her recent comments at Huffington Post, Jen Bendery correctly noted:

The pattern throughout the president's tenure has been uncontroversial judicial nominees clearing the Senate Judiciary Committee but going nowhere [on] the Senate floor. Then, after months of opposition, GOP leaders agree to clear some of the backlog and long-stalled nominees sail through virtually unopposed. . . . [W]hat has changed is the degree to which obstruction has become standard operating procedure since Obama took office. After four years, Obama has seen about 75 percent of his nominees confirmed. By contrast, the Senate confirmed . . . 88.7 percent of Bush's nominees by this point in [his] presidency.

Two months ago, the Senate went into recess without taking action on 19 judicial nominees, nearly all of whom have support from both parties.

Regrettably, the Senate has not been allowed to make real progress for the American people by reducing the number of judicial vacancies. There were more than 80 vacancies when the year began. There were more than 80 vacancies this past March when the Majority Leader was forced to take the extraordinary step of filing cloture petitions on 17 district court nominations. There are now more than 80 vacancies once again.

In stark contrast, there were only 29 vacancies at this point in President George W. Bush's first term and we had lowered vacancies during those four years to 28, not the 83 at which they stand today. When George W. Bush was President, we routinely considered four to six judges per week. In 2002, we confirmed 18 judges in 1 day. That is what it takes to make real progress. The Senate should proceed to consider and confirm all 19 judicial nominations ready for a final vote without further delay.

There is no justification for holding up final Senate action on the 19 judicial nominations that have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and are pending on the Senate Executive Calendar. President Obama has consistently reached across the aisle, consulted with home State Senators from both parties and appointed moderate, well-qualified judicial nominees. Seven of the 19 nominees currently waiting for final Senate consideration are supported by Republican home State Senators. Seventeen of these nominees received bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee. The Senate should be learning the lesson of the recent elections and working in a bipartisan manner to consider and vote on these nominees. It is time for the obstruction to end and for the Senate to complete action on these nominees so that they may serve the American people. Delay for delay's sake is wrong and should end.

Whatever justification Senate Republicans contended they had by resort to their misapplication of the Thurmond Rule to stall judicial nominations before the election is gone. The American people have voted and chosen to reelect President Obama. The President is not a lame duck. He is the President elected and reelected by the American people. It is time for the Senate to vote on his judicial nominees.

From 1980 until this year, when a lame duck session followed a presidential election, every single judicial nominee reported with bipartisan Judiciary Committee support has been confirmed. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, no consensus nominee reported prior to the August recess has ever been denied a vote--before now. That is something Senate Democrats have not done in any lame duck session, whether after a presidential or midterm election.

Senate Democrats allowed votes on 20 of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees, including one very controversial circuit court nominee, in the lame duck session after the elections in 2002. I remember, I was the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee who moved forward with those votes. The Senate proceeded to confirm judicial nominees in lame duck sessions after the elections in 2004 and 2006, and proceeded to confirm 19 judicial nominees in the lame duck session after the elections in 2010, as well. The reason that I am not listing confirmations for the lame duck session at the end of 2008 is because that year we had proceeded to confirm the last 10 judicial nominees approved by the Judiciary Committee in September.

That is our history and recent precedent. Those across the aisle who contend that judicial confirmations votes during lame duck sessions do not take place are wrong. It is they with their obstruction who are creating a wrongheaded precedent. The Senators from Kentucky, Tennessee, Utah, Iowa, Arizona, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi should all remember the judicial nominees from their home States Democrats moved forward to confirm in lame duck sessions in 2002, 2004 and 2010.

If the Senate will be allowed to vote on these 19 judicial nominees, we can help fill nearly one-quarter of our Nation's Federal judicial vacancies. We can fill almost one-third of all judicial emergency vacancies. Most importantly, we can help hardworking Americans to have better access to justice.

I congratulate Judge Grimm and his family as well as the Senators from Maryland who have continued to press for this day. There is no reason the Senate should not be allowed to vote on the other 18 long-pending judicial nominations. The American people deserve no less.

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