Senate Democrats

As Senate prepares to confirm 205th judge, Reid and Leahy urge Bush to protect checks and balances of democracy

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged President Bush today to protect the fundamental checks and balances of democracy. The Senate leaders encouraged Bush to oppose the “nuclear option” and select nominees who will generate strong, bipartisan support.

Letter and judicial fact sheet follow:

April 11, 2005

The Honorable George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

There are currently 28 vacancies on the federal courts of appeals and district courts for which you have not forwarded nominees to the Senate. We write to offer to help you obtain consultation and advice from the Senate on these vacancies so that you may select nominees who will generate strong, bipartisan support.

This evening the Senate is scheduled to consider your nomination of Paul Crotty to become a federal judge in New York. We expect Mr. Crotty to be confirmed with the support of his home-state Senators and an overwhelming vote. We have each been urging you for some time to work with the Senate to fill federal judicial vacancies with qualified, consensus nominees. It is now imperative that we do so.

When you met with Russian President Putin earlier this year, you noted that checks and balances and an independent judiciary are among the fundamental requirements of democracy. We agree. We therefore urge you to make clear to Senate Republican leaders that you do not favor the so-called “nuclear option” which would remove an important check on executive power. Instead, let us work together to identify consensus judicial candidates. Let us preserve our independent judiciary, which is the envy of the world.


Harry Reid, Democratic Leader
Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member


205 Judicial Nominees Confirmed – The Senate has confirmed 205 judicial nominees of President George W. Bush with the expected confirmation of Paul Crotty this evening. This is more than in President Reagan’s first term, his father’s only term, or President Clinton’s second term. 215 nominees were brought to the full Senate for a vote, meaning 95 percent of the judges brought for a vote were confirmed. One hundred of the 205 confirmations took place in the 17 months that Democrats were in the Senate majority and the other 105 during the 34 months that Republicans have controlled the Senate.

35 Circuit Court Nominees Confirmed – The Senate has confirmed 35 circuit court –nominees, more than in Reagan’s or Clinton’s first term.

The Federal Judiciary is Now 95 percent Full – There are now only 46 vacant seats in all of the Federal courts, the lowest level of vacancies since the Reagan era. There are more federal judges today than in any previous Presidential term. When Senator Leahy took over as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 2001, he inherited 110 vacancies and by the end of the 108th Congress the number had plummeted to 27.

Of the 10 Nominees Filibusters, 3 Have Withdrawn, 4 Are Opposed by Both Home-State Senators and 3 Were Seen as Unsuitable, Extreme, And Likely to Impose Their Personal Views – Miguel Estrada, Carolyn Kuhl and Chalres Pickering have all asked that their nominations be withdrawn and are no longer pending. Three Michigan nominees and Janice Rogers Brown of California are opposed by both their home-state Senators. William Myers of Idaho, William Pryor of Alabama and Priscilla Owen of Texas are the 3 nominees already debated by the Senate on whose nominations cloture was denied.

President Bush Has Renominated 20 Judicial Nominees Knowing that 18 Have Generated Controversy and that 7 Have Already Been Filibustered – It was not until February 14, 2005 that President Bush sent any judicial nominees to the Senate and all but two already had already generated significant controversy. Seven of those renominated had already been filibustered by the full Senate.

President Bush Has Not Sent Names for 28 of the 46 Vacancies – President Bush has not yet made nominations for more than half of the current vacancies on the federal bench.

Republicans Have Stalled on Consensus Nominees – Two nominees to District Courts (one in Hawaii, another in New York) have been awaiting confirmation votes in the full Senate. Despite bipartisan support for these nominees, the Republican leadership has refused to grant them a vote until today with the vote on Paul Crotty. Democrats have been prepared to vote to confirm these Bush nominees for months. It is the Senate Republican leadership that is delaying action as part of their effort to manufacture a crisis.

President Bush Has Sent the Senate Only 1 New Judicial Nomination All Year – Brian Sandoval of Nevada is the only new judicial nomination sent to the Senate in the first 4 months of this year. He has bipartisan support from his home-state Senators and appears to be a consensus nominee whose confirmation can be expedited as soon as his paper work is received.