Senate Democrats

Reid Remarks On Republican Obstruction Of Qualified Nominees

“Patricia Millett… has argued more than 32 cases before the highest court in the land… She is a military spouse and mother of two who argued a case before the Supreme Court while her husband… was deployed in Afghanistan… So it is truly a shame that Republicans would filibuster this exceedingly qualified nominee for unrelated political reasons.” 

“Republicans claim that filling the three remaining vacancies on the D.C. Circuit would amount to court packing. But I can’t think of anything more ridiculous… Making nominations to vacant judgeships is not court-packing. It’s the President’s job.”

“Patricia Millett deserves… a return to the days when all Senators, including Republicans, took their duty to advise and consent seriously.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the importance of confirming Patricia Millett to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

The United States Senate has the privilege of considering the nominations of many exceptionally talented individuals for a variety of jobs. This week, the Senate has already approved three qualified and dedicated nominees – including Richard Griffin, to serve among the people’s watchdogs against labor abuses, and Tom Wheeler, to lead the body that oversees the nation’s telecommunications industries. And this week we will consider five other fine public servants for a variety of crucial roles in the executive branch.

So when one nominee’s personal story and professional dedication stands out in this distinguished crowd, it is remarkable.  That’s the case with Patricia Millett, the nominee to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ms. Millett graduated at the top of her class from the University of Illinois at Urbana and then attended Harvard Law School.  She clerked for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and served as an appellate attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Division. Then she served as assistant solicitor general under Democratic President Bill Clinton as well as Republican President George W. Bush.

Ms. Millett went on to run the Supreme Court practice at the prestigious law firm Akin Gump.  And she has argued more than 32 cases before the highest court in the land.

But Patricia Millett’s professional credentials are matched by her personal integrity and determination. She is a military spouse and mother of two who argued a case before the Supreme Court while her husband, who served in the Navy, was deployed in Afghanistan. And Ms. Millett has been a literacy tutor for two decades, and volunteers at her church’s homeless shelter.

She has the support of a variety of law enforcement officials, legal professionals and military organizations from across the political spectrum. Her colleagues have called her fair-minded, principled and exceptionally gifted, with unwavering integrity.

So it is truly a shame that Republicans would filibuster this exceedingly qualified nominee for unrelated political reasons.

Patricia Millett is nominated to what many call the second most important court in the land. The D.C. Circuit reviews the complicated decisions and rulemakings of federal agencies and since September 11, 2001 has handled some of the most important terrorism and detention cases.  This is what former D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Patricia Wald said about the court’s caseload:  “The D.C. Circuit hears the most complex, time-consuming, labyrinthine disputes over regulations with the greatest impact on ordinary Americans’ lives: clean air and water regulations, nuclear plant safety, health-care reform issues, insider trading and more. These cases can require thousands of hours of preparation by the judges, often consuming days of argument, involving hundreds of parties and interveners, and necessitating dozens of briefs and thousands of pages of record — all of which culminates in lengthy, technically intricate legal opinions… The nature of the D.C. Circuit’s caseload is what sets it apart from other courts.”

Unfortunately, today the court is functioning far below its full complement of judges. Today, only 8 of the 11 seats on the D.C. Circuit are full. The three remaining vacancies are due, in part, to Republican obstruction of qualified nominees like Caitlin Halligan.

Republicans claim that filling the three remaining vacancies on the D.C. Circuit would amount to court packing. But I can’t think of anything more ridiculous.

Circuit court nominees, including nominees for the D.C. Circuit, have waited seven times longer for confirmation under President Obama than they did under President Bush. It’s no mystery why we have a judicial vacancy crisis in this country.

Making nominations to vacant judgeships is not court-packing. It’s the President’s job.

Senate Republicans were happy to confirm judges to the D.C. Circuit when Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush were in office. But now that a Democrat serves in the White House, Republicans want to eliminate the remaining three vacant D.C. Circuit Court seats, although the court’s workload has actually grown since President Bush was in office. Republicans are using convenient but flawed political arguments to hamstring this vital court and deny highly qualified nominees like Ms. Millett a fair up-or-down vote.

But Patricia Millett deserves better. She deserves a return to the days when all Senators, including Republicans, took their duty to advise and consent seriously. She deserves a return to the days when qualified nominees were guaranteed a fair confirmation process devoid of political games.

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