Senate Democrats

Reid Remarks On Republican Filibuster Of Qualified Judicial Nominees, Drug Safety Legislation

“It is unfortunate that Republicans have chosen to filibuster the nomination of yet another talented female jurist and dedicated public servant to fill a vacant seat on [the D.C. Circuit] court.” 

“This bipartisan [compounding] legislation will ensure drugs manufactured in factories and mixed in pharmacies across the country are safe for consumers.” 

“The Defense Authorization bill… ensures the safety of this nation and its dedicated service members, and it is more important than any one senator or any one senator’s parochial or political pet issues.” 

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor to offer condolences on the death of Senator James Inhofe’s son, on a terrible typhoon that hit the Philippines, on another Republican filibuster of a qualified judicial nominee, on the safety of drugs manufactured in the United States and on the Defense Authorization bill.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

I extend my deepest condolences to the senior Senator from Oklahoma, Senator Inhofe, and his wife Kay on the loss of their son, Perry. The United States Senate family was saddened to hear that Perry Inhofe, who was only 52, was killed in a plane crash on Sunday. My thoughts are with Senator Inhofe and his entire family this week, as they grieve.

My heart also goes out to residents of the Philippines, who were affected by a terrible typhoon over the weekend. Thousands of Filipinos are dead or missing. And relief and reconstruction efforts will be long and difficult. My thoughts are with the 3.4 million Filipino-Americans living in the United States, including 100,000 Filipino-Americans in Nevada, who may have lost family members or friends to this destructive storm.

Today Senate Democrats will attempt to break a filibuster of a highly qualified woman to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is often said the D.C. Circuit is the second highest court in the land, after the Supreme Court. So it is unfortunate that Republicans have chosen to filibuster the nomination of yet another talented female jurist and dedicated public servant to fill a vacant seat on this court.

The nominee, Georgetown Law Professor Nina Pillard, has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court and briefed another 25. In one case she argued before the Supreme Court, she represented a male employee of the state of Nevada who was fired after taking unpaid leave to care for his sick wife. The court ruled six to three in favor of her client, upholding important protections under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Support for Professor Pillard’s confirmation is bipartisan – at least outside the United States Senate. Yet Senate Republicans seem poised to block confirmation of this eminently qualified woman for a blatantly political reason: to deny the President his constitutional right to appoint judges.

The D.C. Circuit is currently operating with 3 of its 11 seats vacant. Republicans claim the court doesn’t need 11 judges. But that’s not what they said when President Bush filled several vacant seats on the court. When George W. Bush was President, Senate Republicans happily filled the 9th, 10th and 11th seats on the D.C. Circuit – the same three seats President Obama seeks to fill today – even though the court had a smaller caseload at the time.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was one of the judges confirmed to the D.C. Circuit during George W. Bush’s presidency. But since a Democrat was elected to the White House, Republicans have blocked two exceedingly qualified female nominees to the D.C. Circuit, Caitlin Halligan and Patricia Millett. In the last 19 years, 5 men have been confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, but only one woman.

Today the Senate has an opportunity to help shape a court that better reflects this country. So I hope Republicans will not block another highly qualified female nominee for nakedly partisan reasons. The least Senate Republicans owe Professor Pillard is the same fair confirmation process that Chief Justice Roberts enjoyed when he was nominated to the D.C. Circuit.

Should Republicans block Professor Pillard’s confirmation, as I fear they will, the Senate will then vote on cloture on the motion to proceed to a bill (H.R.3204, the Drug Quality and Security Act) to enhance safeguards at compounding pharmacies, which create custom-tailored medications for patients with unique health needs. This bipartisan legislation will ensure drugs manufactured in factories and mixed in pharmacies across the country are safe for consumers. The measure will also implement tracking of medicines from the factory floor to the drug store.

Last year, unsanitary conditions at a compounding pharmacy led to a fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people and sickened more than 750 others. Contaminated medicine mixed at that pharmacy was sent to 75 medical facilities in 23 states, and was given to 14,000 patients. The facility in question was actually skirting existing law and acting as a large-scale drug manufacturer, rather than creating custom medications for individuals using products manufactured by other companies.

By avoiding stricter regulations on drug manufacturers, companies like this one boost their profits by putting patients at risk. This legislation will end that dangerous practice, and ensure drugs manufactured and mixed in America are completely safe – from the assembly line to the drug store. This bill could pass the Senate today, but has been stalled by Republicans for more than a month.

We must finish this legislation quickly, so we can wrap up consideration of the crucial Defense Authorization bill before Thanksgiving. I put all Senators on notice: we will do whatever it takes to accomplish that, even if it means working weekends.

Further, we must ensure debate of the Defense Authorization bill is about national defense, not extraneous issues. No Senator should be allowed to jump the line and get a vote on his or her own amendment by threatening to delay action on the underlying bill. Nor should the Senate waste time debating amendments that are not relevant to defense. This measure ensures the safety of this nation and its dedicated service members, and it is more important than any one senator or any one senator’s parochial or political pet issues.

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