The Senate Democratic Leadership today sent the following letter to the President in support of the Judiciary Democrats’ request for documents related to the Roberts Nomination. The letter was signed by Senators Harry Reid, Richard Durbin, Debbie Stabenow, and Charles Schumer:
August 31, 2005
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Your administration has refused to provide certain documents requested by the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee related to the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. to the United States Supreme Court. We write to express the Senate Democratic Leadership’s support for the position of the Judiciary Committee Democrats.
We appreciate that the White House has made available to the Senate certain documents related to Judge Roberts’s service in the Justice Department and in the Office of the White House Counsel under President Reagan. Nonetheless, the Administration has withheld other Reagan-era documents, and has refused to provide any documents from Judge Roberts’ tenure as Principal Deputy Solicitor General in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush. Committee Democrats limited their request from this latter period to documents pertaining to 16 specific cases out of the thousands of cases in which Judge Roberts was involved during the Bush Administration, yet even this modest request has been rebuffed.
The Administration’s arguments for withholding documents are unfounded. With respect to the Reagan documents, the Administration takes the unprecedented position that document requests by United States Senators are subject to exceptions in the Freedom of Information Act. With respect to the Solicitor General documents, the Justice Department cites evidentiary privileges that do not apply to congressional document requests. Documents like these have been provided to the Senate in the past, and they should be made available to Senators as they decide whether Judge Roberts deserves confirmation to a lifetime position on our nation’s highest court.
The decision to withhold these documents continues a troubling pattern of secrecy by your Administration, and a failure to respect the role of Congress in our constitutional system. Senators have a right to review all relevant information in the exercise of our constitutional responsibilities, including our responsibility to provide advice and consent with respect to nominations. If these documents are not made available, Judge Roberts bears a heavier burden to answer questions fully and forthrightly in the upcoming hearings.
We urge you to direct that Attorney General Gonzales or a senior member of the White House staff meet with Senator Leahy to reach an accommodation that will permit Senators access to needed material.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.