Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding nominations to the federal bench. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Tomorrow I expect the Senate will consider the nomination of Steven Agee to a Virginia seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Agee is currently a member of the Virginia Supreme Court. His nomination to the federal bench is supported by both Senators Warner and Webb, and I am confident that he will be confirmed overwhelmingly.
“Several weeks ago, I pledged my best efforts to have the Senate consider three circuit court nominations prior to the Memorial Day recess. I explicitly said at the time that ‘I cannot guarantee’ three confirmations because that outcome would depend on factors beyond my control. Still, Senator Leahy and I have worked hard to move three appellate nominees this month. Judge Agee is one of the three. The next two nominees in line are Sixth Circuit nominees Raymond Kethledge and Helene White of Michigan.
“These nominees are the product of an agreement between the White House and Senators Levin and Stabenow. It took many years to work out this agreement, but now we have a chance to fill the vacancies on that circuit. Senator Leahy expedited consideration of theMichigan nominees in light of my pledge. Unfortunately, Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee have delayed consideration of Judge White. They badgered her at her confirmation hearing, and then followed up by asking a total of 73 separate written questions, including some that will be particularly time-consuming.
“Every Senator has the right to ask questions of a nominee, but the number and nature of the questions posed to Judge White suggest that Republicans intend to delay that nomination. In addition, Republicans have insisted that the nomination not move forward until Judge White’s ABA review is complete. Again, that is their right, but in this case it is ironic they would make that request since she was rated qualified by the ABA 10 years ago when Republicans blocked her nomination from moving forward. Since that time she has been a sitting state court judge.
“It is still possible the Senate will consider these two Michigan nominees before the recess. But if that does not happen, it will be despite my best efforts. It will be because of delaying tactics on the other side of the aisle.
“Republicans apparently preferred that Chairman Leahy consider other nominees before the Michigan nominees. But nothing in my pledge regarding judicial nominations deprived Chairman Leahy of his prerogative to determine the sequence of nomination hearings in his committee.
“No one presumed to instruct Senator Specter about the sequence of nominations during the years he served as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. And certainly Senator Hatch exercised the Chairman’s prerogatives freely during the years in which more than 60 of President Clinton’s nominees were denied hearings or floor consideration.
“Chairman Leahy and I will continue to process judicial nominations in due course, consistent with the Senate’s constitutional role. Consideration of Judge Agee’s nomination tomorrow is consistent with that goal.”