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Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, Senate Democrats are not content with the additional powers they have--powers greater than those enjoyed by any previous majority--so they intend to manufacture a crisis over nominations as a pretext for a further power grab. Yet the Senate is treating President Obama's nominees very fairly. For example, let's just look at how the Senate has treated his judicial nominees.

Overall, the Senate has confirmed 193 lower court judges and defeated only 2--defeated only 2. That is a .990 batting average--a .990 batting average. After this week, the Senate will have approved 24 of the President's lifetime appointments compared to just 9--9--for President Bush at a comparable point in his second term.

I will mention my party actually controlled the Senate then, so we could have arguably confirmed a lot more.

President Bush got 9 at this point in his second term; President Obama 24.

Last Congress Obama had more district court confirmations than in any of the previous eight Congresses--previous eight Congresses. He also had almost 50 percent more confirmations--171--than President Bush--119--under similar circumstances.

To support an unprecedented power grab, the administration and its allies in the Senate have resorted to truly outlandish claims about how the President's judicial nominees are being treated--sort of making this stuff up.

Washington Post Fact Checker gave the President two Pinocchios for extreme claims about Republican delays of his judicial nominees, noting that in some ways the President's nominees are actually being moved along ``better'' than Bush's.

The Washington Post cited CRS's conclusion that from nomination to confirmation--one of the most relevant indicators, according to a Brookings scholar--Obama's circuit court nominations are being processed about 100 days quicker--100 days quicker--than President Bush's: 350.6 days for Bush to 256.9 for Obama.

..... during Obama's first term, his nominees to federal appeals courts actually were confirmed more quickly on average than Bush's first-term nominees, measured from the day of nomination to the day of the confirmation vote.


..... the average wait for George W. Bush's circuit court nominees was actually longer from nomination to confirmation.

So, as you can see, Mr. President, this is a manufactured crisis--one that does not, in fact, exist--in order to try to justify a power grab to fundamentally change the Senate.

At the beginning of each of last two Congresses, we have had this discussion at length. At the beginning of the previous Congress, here is what the majority leader said back in January of 2011. He said:

I agree that the proper way to change Senate rules is through the procedures established in those rules, and I will oppose--

``I will oppose,'' he said. This is January of 2011--

any effort in this Congress or the next to change the Senate's rules other than through the regular order.

``I will oppose any effort in this Congress or the next''--the one we are in now--to change the rules of the Senate in any other way than through the regular order. The regular order is it takes 67 votes--not even 60 but 67 votes--to change the rules of the Senate.

Not being willing to keep the commitment he made in January of 2011, we went around and around again at the beginning of 2013--this year--and the Senate this year, after considerable discussion, joined by a number of Members of the Senate on both sides of the aisle, passed two new rules and two new standing orders. In the wake of that action, an additional commitment was made, and here was the exchange on the floor on January 24 of this year.

I said:

I would confirm with the majority leader that the Senate would not consider other resolutions relating to any standing order or rules this Congress unless they went through the regular order process?

We had just done that. We followed the regular order, and we passed two rules changes and two standing orders.

The majority leader said:

That is correct. Any other resolutions related to Senate procedure would be subject to a regular order process, including consideration by the Rules Committee.

Now, that was not a promise made based on the majority leader's view of good behavior. But, of course, by any objective standard, there has not been any bad behavior anyway, even if that would justify breaking a commitment that was not contingent.

Now my friend the majority leader has taken to kind of leaving the floor in the hopes that somehow this would go away if only he were not here. What will not go away is the unequivocal commitment made at the beginning of this Congress so we would know what the rules were for the duration of this Congress.

I think colleagues on both sides of the aisle have a right to know whether the commitment made by the leader of this body--the leader of the majority and this body--is going to be kept. That is the only way we can function. Our word is the currency of the realm in the Senate.

As you can see from the facts, this is a manufactured crisis. There is no crisis over the way the Senate has functioned. In fact, except for these periodic threats by the majority leader to break the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules of the Senate, we have been operating much better this Congress than in recent previous Congresses. Bills have been open for amendment. We have been able to get them to passage. They have been bipartisan in large measure.

The Senate these days is not broken. It does not need to be fixed, particularly if your judgment to fixing the Senate is to not keep a commitment you made at the beginning of the year.

So I would conclude by saying that I am going to bring this up every morning, and the majority leader not being here or not responding does not make it go away. What my colleagues in the minority have on their minds is whether the commitment will be kept, and at some point the majority leader is going to have to answer that question because it is not going away.

I yield the floor.

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