Senate Democrats

Reid Offers Unanimous Consent on Confirmation of Thomas Griffith

Senator Reid delivered the following statement on the Senate Floor.

As Prepared for Delivery:

There is great concern among both Democrats and Republicans about the path Senator Frist is leading the Senate down. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Senator Frist is under enormous pressure from right wing groups to trigger the nuclear option this week.

So many of our colleagues want to avert this damaging confrontation. It will be bad for the Senate and bad for the country, and we have a responsibility to the American people to take every possible step to avoid it.

I have put a real compromise on the table to break the Republican gridlock over seven radical judges, so Washington can get back to doing the people’s business. But, we will not accept anything that destroys the checks and balances that have protected the American people for 217 years.

The White House manufactured this crisis. Since Bush took office, the Senate confirmed 208 of his judicial nominations and turned back only 10, a 95% confirmation rate. Instead of accepting that success and avoiding further divisiveness and partisanship in Washington, the President chose to pick fights instead of judges by resubmitting the names of the rejected nominees, including Priscilla Owen, William Meyers, William Pryor, Janice Rogers Brown and Henry Saad.

Meanwhile the President has failed to send us new nominations. In more than 4 months since he was sworn in to a second term, the President has sent the Senate only one new judicial nomination. Other than that one nominee to the district court in Nevada, every single one of the President’s judicial nominees has been here before.

One reason why the White House won’t send new judges to the Senate is that they don’t want to give Senate Democrats a chance to continue to demonstrate that we are reasonable. They don’t want the confirmation rate to increase from 95% to 96% or 98%. They want to paint us as obstructionists in an attempt to convince the American people that their abuse of power is somehow warranted.

I suspect that the White House wants to force the nuclear option on the Senate because it wants to clear the way for a Supreme Court nominee who only needs 51 votes instead of one who needs 60 votes.

They don’t want a David Souter, or an Anthony Kennedy, or a Sandra Day O’Connor, or a Ruth Bader Ginsberg, or a Stephen Breyer, all of whom were confirmed with near unanimous bipartisan support. They want a Clarence Thomas. who was confirmed with only 52 votes and has since proven to be an extremist on the Court. George Bush wants to turn the Senate into a second House of Representatives, a rubberstamp for his right wing agenda and radical judges.

That’s not how America works. While Republicans corrupt our government, Democrats will fight to protect our constitutional checks and balances and basic fairness for the American people.

It’s important that we continue to meet our responsibilities to the American people. Senate Democrats came to Washington to govern, not pick political battles. There is a nominee on the executive calendar named Thomas Griffith, who is a controversial nominee to an important appellate court. But if he is brought before the Senate I believe he will be confirmed.

Mr. Griffith is the former Senate Legal Counsel. His nomination to the DC Circuit was reported from the Judiciary Committee on a 14-4 vote. A number of Democrats will vote against confirmation on the floor. But we know the difference between opposing nominees and blocking nominees. We will oppose bad nominees, but we will only block unacceptable nominees.

Democrats will use the filibuster responsibly, and there is no cause for the majority to break the rules and 217 years of Senate traditions to take away that right.

I want to emphasize that Mr. Griffith is nominated to the D.C. Circuit. This is the most important appellate court after the Supreme Court. Republicans say that our 95% confirmation rate is irrelevant because many of the 208 judges we have confirmed are district court nominees. Well here is a nominee to the most important federal court of appeals in the country, and we are prepared to move forward.

This same courtesy was not extended to President Clinton’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit. Republicans held up the nomination of Justice Department official Merrick Garland for two years before finally confirming him in 1997. President Clinton then nominated two distinguished lawyers to the court: Elena Kagan, who is now the Dean of Harvard Law School, and Allen Snyder, a partner in the law firm of Hogan & Hartson and a former clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist. Both of those nominations were buried in the Judiciary Committee and were never given an up-down vote on the floor of the Senate.

I have heard my Republican friends say so many times this year that nominees are entitled to an up-down vote. I defy them to explain why Elena Kagan and Allen Snyder were denied votes on the Senate floor.

But we want to move forward. And to demonstrate our good will, we want to move forward on a controversial nominee to the D.C. Circuit.

Today, I told the Majority Leader that Democrats are prepared to enter into a unanimous consent agreement to move to the Griffith nomination.

Under this unanimous consent agreement, we would proceed to the Griffith nomination immediately following disposition of the supplemental appropriations bill. We would then have up to 10 hours of debate on that nomination, equally divided. Following that debate we are willing to have an up-down vote on this controversial nominee to the D.C. Circuit.

And if the Majority Leader is unwilling to take up the Griffith nomination right after the appropriations bill, I urge that the Majority Leader proceed to the Griffith nomination before he implements the nuclear option. Give us a chance to do the people’s business.

Let’s try cooperation instead of confrontation.

The American people deserve better.

If Senator Frist continues on Democrats will do the nation’s business and work to reduce gas prices, make health care more affordable, create new and better jobs, and give the veterans the support they need and deserve.