Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent the following letter today to Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, responding to concerns about the process for confirming Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
Reid writes, “I appreciate that Senate Republicans are committed to a fair and respectful confirmation process for Judge Sotomayor. I believe it is important that Senators be permitted the opportunity to thoroughly review Judge Sotomayor’s record and to fulfill our constitutional duty to provide advice and consent. I believe our proposed schedule for hearings and a floor vote on her confirmation will do so.”
The full text of the letter is below:
June 9, 2009
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
S-230 Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator McConnell:
Thank you for your letter regarding the process for considering the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court. I have taken your concerns into consideration and have discussed the confirmation process with the President and the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Judge Sotomayor’s judicial record is largely public and has been undergoing extensive review by all interested parties at least since the President announced her nomination on May 26. In addition, she has returned her questionnaire, including available records of her speeches and writings, in record time. Her record for review is now essentially complete.
In contrast, both Judge Roberts and Judge Alito had spent significant time in the executive branch and much of their record was therefore not public or available for review following their nominations. Numerous executive branch documents were not included with their questionnaires, and much staff preparation time was devoted to extensive negotiations over document production with both nominations.
In 2005, Senator Leahy agreed to a September 6 hearing date for the Roberts nomination before Judge Roberts had submitted his questionnaire, and before more than 75,000 pages of documents, primarily from the Reagan Library and the National Archives, came in throughout August and before the hearings began in September. Indeed, on the eve of the planned start of the hearing, on August 30, the Archives notified the Judiciary Committee that they had found a new set of documents consisting of approximately 15,000 pages. These were delivered September 2, further complicating hearing preparations. Hearings went ahead on September 12.
Furthermore, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and Chief Justice Rehnquist passed away while the Senate was considering Judge Roberts’ nomination to be an Associate Justice, leading to a week-long delay in his hearing after he was then nominated to be the new Chief Justice.
Despite these obstacles, Judge Roberts was confirmed 72 days after President Bush named him as a nominee to the Supreme Court. If Judge Sotomayor is confirmed before the Senate recesses in August, she will have been confirmed on a virtually identical timetable. If, however, she is not confirmed until the beginning of the Court’s term in October, consideration of her nomination will have lasted nearly twice as long as that of Judge Roberts.
Confirming Judge Sotomayor before the August recess would give her time to prepare adequately for the Court’s fall term, including review of hundreds of petitions for certiorari for the Court’s first conference and preparation for merits arguments. It would also allow her time to move and hire law clerks. I do not believe it is fair to delay Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation if it is not absolutely necessary.
I appreciate that Senate Republicans are committed to a fair and respectful confirmation process for Judge Sotomayor. I believe it is important that Senators be permitted the opportunity to thoroughly review Judge Sotomayor’s record and to fulfill our constitutional duty to provide advice and consent. I believe our proposed schedule for hearings and a floor vote on her confirmation will do so.