April 01, 2008

Leahy, Clinton & Obama Lead Obstruction of Nominees

In Monday’s National Review Online – as well as in a floor speech today – Sen. Orrin Hatch took Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy to task for his hypocrisy on the issue of judicial nominations. Instances cited in the NRO piece include
“[Leahy] claims that he is not responsible when Bush nominees lacking support from their home-state senators do not get hearings. When he follows this policy, he blames it on senatorial courtesy. When Republicans follow this policy, he calls it a pocket filibuster.”

“Democrats also cite the so-called Thurmond Rule, supposedly to justify grinding the confirmation process to an early halt in this presidential-election year. (The Thurmond Rule is neither a rule nor attributable to the late Sen. Strom Thurmond.) ... As [Leahy] put it in July 2000: ‘We cannot afford to follow the Thurmond Rule and stop acting on these nominees now in anticipation of the presidential election in November.’”

“When Democrats were in the minority during President Clinton’s last year in office, they repeatedly insisted that 1992 provided the proper yardstick for measuring confirmation progress. [Leahy] said so in at least six different speeches between March and November of 2000. … Today, all Democrats have to do is meet their own standard. They are failing to do so.”
Sen. Hatch also made a telling personal comparison:
“I have voted against only five of the more than 1,500 nominees to life-tenured judicial positions that the full Senate has considered since I was first elected [in 1976]. Some Democratic senators … have voted against more than three times as many nominees of the current president alone.” (emphasis added)
Among the senators who have voted against more than three times as many nominees in just the last seven years, the worst offenders are presidential contender Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa (yes, both are worse than Sen. Kennedy). Clinton and Harkin have vetoed President Bush’s judicial nominees 19 times. And that doesn’t include the numerous times they voted to sustain the unprecedented filibusters of Bush’s judicial nominees – that is, to prevent the nominees from even getting an up-or-down vote by the full Senate.

Barack Obama trails Sen. Clinton in the obstruction game only because he wasn’t elected until November 2004. But once elected, Obama gave Clinton a run for her money, racking up eight vetoes of judicial nominees, compared to Clinton’s nine during the same period. Again, votes to sustain a filibuster are not included. But it’s worth noting that both Clinton and Obama joined John Kerry in his failed attempt to filibuster Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

As part of his remarks on judicial nominations today, Sen. Hatch put a February 13, 2008 letter from a coalition of about 60 organizations in the record. The letter can be found here.

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