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Public Statements

Drug Quality and Security Act - Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CANTWELL. Madam President, I thank the Senator from Minnesota for her leadership on the floor this afternoon. It is great to join her and my other colleagues to talk about the importance of judicial nominees, and in particular today, because today we are talking about the nomination of more female representation on the courts which I think is incredibly important.

I served my first 2 years in the Senate on the Judiciary Committee, and I was struck to find that, I think at that time, I may have been the fourth woman in the whole history of our country to be on the Judiciary Committee. Now I am so proud that my colleague from Minnesota serves on that committee and does an excellent job and that we have other representation as well. But the point we have to ask ourselves is, do we have to get women elected to the Senate to get women on the Judiciary Committee to get women on the courts because our colleagues aren't going to help us do that?

I am rising to support moving these nominations. President Obama has nominated Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Millett. We want to see these vacancies filled. We don't want the same dysfunction which led to a government shutdown to let us move toward the kind of the stopping of putting people on the court. Nominating highly qualified individuals is what the President's job is, and filling seats on the court is not packing the court. It is simply doing the job.

On October 31, 2013, many of my colleagues voted against a motion to end debate on Patricia Millett to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She is a very highly qualified attorney who has argued before the Supreme Court 32 times and is recognized both by Democrats and Republicans for her legal acumen. Despite her qualifications, her nomination was being blocked. Had she been confirmed, she would only be the sixth woman to sit on the DC District Court of Appeals. So I am questioning the place we are now on this nomination.

Professor Nina Pillard is another filibustered nominee who has argued historic cases before the Supreme Court, including a case to open the Virginia Military Institute to women for the first time in history and a case defending the family medical leave law. American people want to know why are these qualified female judges being blocked. Just 32 percent of the U.S. Appeals Court judges are women. In my opinion, it is time to move forward with more highly qualified nominees to add diversity to the courts.

I have not heard any of my colleagues question the credentials of these nominees. In fact, Ms. Millett has been called ``a brilliant mind, a gift for clear persuasive writing, and a genuine zeal for the rule of law.'' This is not a quote by a Democratic Senator or a liberal think tank. That quote is from former Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr in a letter with six other Solicitors General, top lawyers who have served in the George H. Bush and George W. Bush and Clinton administrations, basically saying, ``Equally important, she is unfailingly fair minded.'' That is from Mr. Starr.

So the DC Circuit Court currently has four judges chosen by Democratic Presidents and four by Republicans. There are three vacancies on the court. Republicans are arguing we shouldn't fill these vacancies, that we should just eliminate them. I think my colleague from Minnesota just spoke to this. This is a proposal that is even opposed by Chief Justice John Roberts, who argues that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals is similar to many of the Federal courts and is operating in a state of crisis. He said, ``Based on our current caseload methods, the D.C. Circuit Court should continue to have 11 judgeships.''

So we need a court that is fully staffed. The primary responsibility of this court is the handling of cases involving Federal regulations on environmental safety, health care reform, and insider trading. We should trust that our judicial branch can nominate and get judges on that court that basically will look at the law and not party affiliation and stop obstructing people whom I believe are qualified to be on the court.

I hope we can move forward. Ms. Millett is the second female nominee opposed by Republicans after the nomination of Georgetown professor Pillard was filibustered. However, she joins a long list of judicial nominees who happen to be female who have been opposed, not because of their qualifications but because they were nominated by this President. I will submit that list for the RECORD.

I hope this discussion today points out the need of more women on the courts. Maybe we also need more women elected to the Senate so we can make sure we get more women on the courts. But this is, today, about asking my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to not look past this court. Do not try to diminish it by narrowing its focus. Get more people who will support qualified women so we can have the diversity in America that we need represented on our courts, even at the DC district appeals level.

I thank my colleague from Minnesota for arranging for all of us to be here today to share our views.


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