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Public Statements

Wilkins Nomination

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRASSLEY. I am going to vote not to bring up the nomination of Judge Wilkins. I have some concerns about his record, but I am not going to focus on those concerns today, because there are a lot bigger issues we are dealing with. I have said it before and I will say it again: By the standards the Democrats established in the year 2006, we should not confirm anymore judges to the DC Circuit, especially when those additional judges cost approximately $1 million per year per judge.

The fact of the matter is, this DC Circuit they want to make three more appointments to--and this will be the third of these appointments we have dealt with--is underworked. The statistics make it abundantly clear, but I am not going to go through them all again as I have in the past. I will mention a couple brief points regarding the caseload. The DC Circuit ranks last, for instance, in both the number of appeals filed and the appeals terminated. These are the cases coming to the court and going out. Not only does DC rank last, but it is not even close. To give you a frame of reference compared to DC, the Eleventh Circuit, which has the highest caseload, has over five times as many appeals as are filed here in the DC Circuit. The same is true for appeals terminated. Again, it is not even close. The Eleventh Circuit has over five times as many appeals terminated as the DC Circuit.

The bottom line is that the DC Circuit does not have enough work as it is right now, let alone if we were to add even more judges, in this case the President's desire to add three.

That is why the current judges on the court, the current judges, have written to me and said things such as: ``If any more judges were added now, there wouldn't be enough work to go around.''

As I said last week, at least some on the other side concede that the DC Circuit's caseload is low, but they claim DC's caseload numbers don't take into account the complexity of the court's docket based upon the number of administrative appeals filed in that circuit.

As I have said, this argument doesn't stand against scrutiny. My colleagues argue that the DC Circuit docket is complex because 43 percent of its dockets are made up of administrative appeals. Of course, there is a reason they cite a percentage rather than a number. That is because it is a high percentage of a very small number.

When we look at the actual number of these so-called complex cases per judge, the Second Circuit has almost twice as many as the DC Circuit. In 2012 there were 512 administrative appeals filed in the DC Circuit, but in the Second Circuit there were 1,493 filed.

Stated differently, in DC there were only 64 administrative appeals per active judge. The Second Circuit has nearly twice as many with 115 files. Again, that is 64 administrative appeals per judge in DC compared with almost twice as many with the Second Circuit at 115.

This entire argument about complexity, I hope, comes out to be nonsense to most of my colleagues. To hear the other side, it is an outrage that we would hold them to the same standards they established in 2006 when they blocked Peter Keisler's nomination to the DC Circuit based upon caseload.

Since that time, by the standard that the other side established, the court's caseload has declined even further. It has declined so much, in fact, that the number of appeals back then, with 10 acting judges, is roughly the same as there are now with 8 active judges. Again, we didn't set this standard, the Democrats did.

That standard may be inconvenient for Democrats today, but that is not a reason to abandon the standard they established. Remember, the other side established the Keisler standard after the so-called Gang of 14 agreement. Even if that agreement hadn't expired by its own terms at the end of the 109th Congress, the Democrats established the Keisler standard after that agreement supposedly took effect.

As I have said, the other side has run out of legitimate arguments in support of these nominations. That is why they seem to be grasping at straws.

When the other side gasps at straws, they get desperate. When the other side gets desperate, they turn to their last line of defense, accuse us Republicans of bias.

Over the last week or so, my colleagues on the other side have argued that Republicans are opposing nominees based on gender. That argument--as I said last week and I still say--is offensive and patently absurd.

It is so absurd, in fact, that even the Los Angeles Times called the Democrats' attempt to play the ``gender card'' a ``pretty bogus argument,'' noting that in the past Republicans have ``happily confirmed female nominees.''

The fact is that the Republicans have supported over 80 women nominated to the bench by this President as well as a host of other nominees of diverse backgrounds. Those are the facts. It is unfortunate but sadly predictable that facts may not mean much.

These allegations of gender bias are unfortunate because they represent cheap attacks that the other side knows are untrue. It also is unfortunate because the entire exercise is designed to create the appearance of a crisis where there is no crisis. There is no crisis in the DC Circuit because they don't have enough work to do as it is. There is a crisis occurring now all across the country as a result of the health care reform bill that often goes by the terminology of ObamaCare.

Millions of Americans are losing their health insurance, even though the President promised over and over--we know the quote: ``If you like your health care, you can keep it.''

Even though we have a very real and serious crisis facing this country because of ObamaCare, the other side is desperately trying to divert attention to anything but the ObamaCare disaster.

This is how the Roll Call newspaper described this strategy:

Senate Democrats ..... are readying their next assertive moves on three other issues important to their base:

Abortion rights

Minimum wage

Federal judiciary

The goal is to divert as much attention as possible away from the problem-plagued ObamaCare rollout.

Let me get this straight. A crisis is unfolding all across this country as millions of Americans are losing their health insurance because of ObamaCare. Yet the Democrats' strategy, according to Roll Call, is to conceal the ObamaCare crisis by using the DC Circuit as a smokescreen.

That is breathtaking, even by Washington, DC, standards. The other side is so eager to divert attention from the millions of Americans losing their insurance because of ObamaCare that they are willing to manufacture a crisis in the DC Circuit, even though the current judges say: ``If any more judges were added now, there wouldn't be enough work to go around.''

Not only that, but after running out of legitimate arguments to justify the President's attempt to stack the deck on this court, the other side has resorted to making allegations of gender bias. I have already explained that these allegations are offensive and absurd. But since the other side's strategy is to conceal the ObamaCare train wreck with a DC Circuit smokescreen and on top of that is willing to go so far as to accuse our side of gender bias, then I am going to take the opportunity to share some of the frustrations being experienced by my constituents in Iowa, meaning women in Iowa, as a result of ObamaCare.

A woman from Vinton, IA, writes:

After 28 days of complete frustration, I got to look at 30 plans on the Iowa health care exchange at The CHEAPEST one is $1,886 per year with a $6,300 deductible.

Last year, I spent $1,484 on health care. TOTAL. OUT OF MY OWN POCKET. I wouldn't even meet the deductible paying almost $350 a month on the one plan offered.

At that rate, what I spent TOTAL last year would be spent on premiums in 4 months. .....

With more and more policies being cancelled by the insurance companies; with more and more doctors refusing to serve patients with Obamacare; and with the increasing anger towards elected officials, including President Obama, how do you plan to fix this mess???

Another woman from Sioux City, IA, writes:

My company just had a meeting inform us of the changes to our healthcare plan thanks to ``Obamacare''.

It is going to cost me $190 more each month next year for my family coverage.

I am going to have to work more overtime, reduce my 401K contributions and opt out of my Flex 125 contributions to try to recover the extra money coming out of my paycheck because of the new laws. .....

While I suppose I should count myself lucky I didn't lose my employer health insurance coverage, I sure don't feel happy about the extra money I am going to have to pay for the same coverage I was getting this year. What a joke.

I wish there was something that could be done about this. Socialized health care .....

Then she used a word that I can't repeat in the Senate.

From a mom in Dayton, IA:

Our family's health insurance agency contacted us last week to set up an appointment to talk to us about the changes in our health coverage due to Obamacare.

We went to the meeting and found out that our HSA that we currently have will no longer be available because of Obamacare, plus our monthly rate will go from $350.00/month to $570.00/month.

We have no idea how we are going to afford this increase. We feel blindsided. I know that you are committed to helping Iowans, as well as all Americans, so I ask that you keep fighting for affordable healthcare.

My final message is from a woman in Melbourne, IA, who writes:

I got a full in your face understanding of just how horrible it was today when I went to renew my insurance.

I currently pay $110 every two weeks for insurance for my whole family.

Next year I will have to pay over $500 every two weeks to insure my family.

The healthcare website Obamacare created is no better. I can't even get the website to work properly. It will not allow me to put my husband on a joint policy with me. ..... I actually have to weigh which is cheaper ..... paying the fine or paying for insurance. Sadly it will probably be paying the fine.

These are real stories from real women facing a real crisis in only 1 State of the 50 States, my State of Iowa. Of course, this isn't happening only in my State. Far from it. This is happening to millions of Americans all across the country.

Rather than focus on this crisis, a real crisis, the other side has developed a strategy specifically designed to divert attention from it. That strategy is to use the DC Circuit as a smokescreen.

In summary, the judges themselves say: ``If any more judges were added now, there wouldn't be enough work to go around.''

Even though we shouldn't fill these seats based upon the Democratic standard set in 2006 and even though filling these seats would waste $3 million per year in taxpayers' money that we don't have, the other side seems, in an unreasonable way, bent upon manufacturing a crisis for cynical, political reasons.

I urge my colleagues on the other side to come to their senses. Let us start focusing on the real crisis facing this country. I urge my colleagues to vote no on the Wilkins cloture petition.

I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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