July 18, 2006

Press Release from Third Branch Conference

First time that conservatives will measure effort and obstruction on heated nominations issue

Washington, D.C. - The Third Branch Conference, a coalition of grasstop leaders nationwide working to improve the federal courts, today announced that it will score votes and other Senate action or inaction on judicial nominations in the 109th Congress. While several organizations on the left regularly score Senators votes on judicial nominations, and the American Conservative Union and the National Rifle Association have scored particular appellate court votes as part of their composite ratings, no center-right organization has ever scored for entire effort or obstruction solely on judicial nominations. TBC will do so as a project of its "Scoring Members," a sub-group of its membership.

The rating will consist of two tallies, which when combined will produce a "total rating." The first will be a "voting rating" that will measure performance in Senate floor votes, both cloture and confirmation votes, for appellate and Supreme Court nominees, as well as the number of votes taken. The second will be the "obstruction rating" that will hold each Senator accountable for delays of any judicial nominee for the number of years they have waited in the Senate, for the length of time they wait on the Senate floor or in Committee without a vote, and for votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee that result in unfavorable recommendations, no recommendation, or no referral. The obstruction rating will also hold participation in the Gang of 14 accountable for delays or withdrawals by nominees attributable to them. It will also penalize the two floor leaders in each party. The voting rating will then be measured against the obstruction rating to produce the "total rating."

"The result will be that Senators will have an incentive to be their leader's keeper because the obstruction or inaction of the leadership, the Committee chairman or one former trial lawyer in the Gang of 14 will be counted against every senator," said Manuel Miranda, chaiman of the Third Branch Conference. "Effort is effort. This Congress has so far taken fewer votes on judicial confirmations than any time since the first two years of the Reagan administration. It has allowed nominees to withdraw and sit without end. It is the least accomplished Senate in 25 years. It is no wonder that the White House has trouble filling seats, with a Senate like this," Miranda said.

In the 109th Congress so far, the Senate has confirmed only 46 judges. By comparison, the 107th confirmed 100 under Democrat control, the 108th confirmed 104. In the 103rd Congress, when the Senate last confirmed two Supreme Court justices (Breyer and Ginsburg), Democratrs also confirmed 127 other Clinton judges.

"Today George Bush's confirmation rate (70%) for circuit judges is the lowest of any president. The circuit courts stands at 10% vacancy rate, arate over which Democrats thought to high under Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott's leadership. And yet the Senate walks slowly and in secret," said Miranda.

The full explanation of methodology and prelimnary ratings for each senator will be announced in mid September. The final tallies will be announced before the November elections. In 2008, the ratings will rate performance in both the 109th and 110th Congresses.