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Public Statements

Judicial Nominees

Location: Washington, DC


    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Michigan is recognized for 5 minutes.

    Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I thank my colleague and dear friend from Maryland. She has been waiting to speak for a long time. I appreciate her graciousness in allowing me to speak for a moment.

    This is a very unfortunate time in the State of Michigan. We have traditionally had bipartisan cooperation on issues that affect our wonderful State and the people we all represent. I cannot think of a time when we have had in previous Congresses Republican colleagues on the House side doing press conferences and attacking the Senators. It is very unfortunate.

    Let me speak first to the numbers our distinguished majority leader just used and other Members on the other side of the aisle. It is my understanding those numbers about backlogs were prior to the filling of four vacancies on the Sixth Circuit. So we are looking at a situation where there have been four vacancies already filled. Retired judges are used to hear cases.

    We do not hear about the kind of backlog and the concern about the lack of justice going on in the Sixth Circuit. I believe that is absolutely inaccurate. What we do hear is a great concern about playing politics.

    There was an effort to hold up all the nominees to the Sixth Circuit under President Clinton. Now, coming into this Senate, Senator Levin and I have attempted to work with the administration to have a bipartisan solution to stop this. That is what we have been about, not going on with partisanship, which is what is happening now. Rather than working with us for a bipartisan solution, we see partisan press conferences. We see our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and unfortunately our colleagues in the House on the Republican side, holding press conference after press conference attacking us, rather than working things out.

    How do we work it out? Well, many States have bipartisan commissions to recommend nominees to the President, working with the Senators. We have put forward the Wisconsin motto which has the Senators from one party placing four people on a commission. The senior Republican in this case, Congressman SENSENBRENNER from Wisconsin, who is a part of this process, nominates four. They have two people from the Wisconsin bar, and the heads of the law schools. It works. It has been embraced by the White House.

    It is disconcerting to me to see what has been agreed to and worked well in Wisconsin will not be allowed in Michigan. We know that in Washington State there is a commission. We know there are agreements in other States to work together with the Senators. But somehow in Michigan, instead of doing that, so our families, our workers, and our businesses can be represented and know that we will provide mainstream judges in a bipartisan way, we see unfortunate comments on the floor, we see misinformation, we see political press conferences over and over again.

    This is how we got to this situation. It was partisanship in the last Senate under President Clinton, holding up the nominees. We are trying to change that and say let's stop this.

    Instead of press conferences, I welcome colleagues in the Senate, as well as our House Members, to join us, to sit down and develop a motto such as Wisconsin and other States, where it works in a bipartisan way, to be able to put forward judges to fill these vacancies.

    It is important who is on the bench. This is not the President's prerogative alone, nor any individual Senator. It means we need to work together because our families are affected, our business community, issues of privacy, health care, business law, the environment. Many issues are affected, and so it matters who is on the court from Michigan. We simply ask that we be treated with fairness as other Senators in other States have been, and we will continue to work to that end.

    I yield back for my colleague from Maryland.

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