Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate:
“I want to commend Chairman Leahy for his work in processing judicial nominations, including the nominees we are voting on today.
“My Republican friends have criticized the Chairman for the pace of judicial confirmations in this Congress. There is a Yiddish word for those Republican complaints: chutzpah.
“During the years that former President Clinton was sending judicial nominations to a Republican-controlled senate, more than 60 qualified nominees were denied floor votes. Many were even denied a committee hearing. In 1999, more than six months went by before Chairman Hatch agreed to process any judicial nominations.
“I have said many times that we should not hold grudges; we should not live in the past. But as a result of Republican tactics during the Clinton years, some of the vacancies President Bush wants to fill are illegitimate vacancies – the seats are only vacant because the Senate unreasonably withheld its consent to President Clinton’s nominees. Republican complaints about the current process must be considered in that light.
“One Clinton nominee – a distinguished Missouri Supreme Court justice named Ronnie White – was defeated on a party line vote after Republicans accused him of being ‘pro-criminal.’ Another nominee – Elena Kagan, now the Dean of Harvard Law School – was denied a hearing because Republicans claimed that the court to which she was nominated didn’t have enough work to do.
“In light of this dismal record, Republican complaints about Chairman Leahy ring hollow, to say the least.
“The fact is, 140 of President Bush’s judicial nominees – 90 percent of them – have been confirmed in the years that Democrats have controlled the Senate. Last year the Senate confirmed 40 judges, more than during any of the three previous years with Republicans in charge.
“After we confirm Catharina Haynes today, more than 75 percent of President Bush’s court of appeals nominees will have been confirmed. In contrast, only half of President Clinton’s nominees were confirmed.
“So our treatment of President Bush’s nominees has been more than fair, and fully in keeping with the Senate’s constitutional duty to provide advice and consent to a president’s nominees.
“The Republican Leader has said that I agreed last year that the Senate would confirm 15 of the President’s court of appeals nominees in this Congress. I could not make such a specific numerical commitment on behalf of my colleagues, and I did not make such a commitment.
“As I said in a floor statement last May 10, we should measure the quality of nominees, not the quantity of nominees. We should confirm mainstream, capable, experienced nominees who are the product of bipartisan cooperation. But we should not confirm nominees who are out of the mainstream or who are unacceptable, for example, to home state senators.
“The judicial confirmation process has been the subject of much acrimony over the years. Senator Leahy and I have worked hard to defuse those tensions, and the confirmation of five judges today is another step in that process.”