March 4, 2013
"Republicans say they will not filibuster. But their actions say otherwise."
"Republicans have, again and again, injected politics into the confirmation process."
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding Republican efforts to obstruct President Obama’s highly qualified judicial and cabinet nominations Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
This week the Senate will consider a handful of nominations. Tonight Senators will vote on confirmation of two district court judges, Pamela Chen to serve as United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York and Katherine Failla to serve as United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. Later this week we will consider the nomination of Caitlin Joan Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which currently has four vacancies.
Ms. Halligan’s colleagues say she has a “brilliant legal mind” and an “abiding respect for the law.” But despite her outstanding credentials and strong support from across the political spectrum, Republicans filibustered her confirmation last Congress.
President Obama is the only president in the 65-year history of the D.C. Circuit Court not to have a single judge confirmed to that court during his first term. Since Ms. Halligan was nominated, two additional vacancies have opened up on the D.C. Circuit. The court desperately needs more judges.
This week, the Senate will also consider the nomination of John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. The Intelligence Committee is expected to report his nomination tomorrow. Mr. Brennan served 25 years at the CIA and four years on the White House national security staff, where he played an instrumental role in finding Osama bin Laden and decimating al Qaeda. He is highly qualified, and should be confirmed quickly.
This week will be a test of Republicans’ good will. My Republican colleagues say they respect the Senate’s responsibility to advise and consent. My Republican colleagues say they don’t plan to obstruct the confirmation process for the sake of obstruction. But they filibustered President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, a former Republican Senator, delaying Secretary Hagel’s confirmation for nearly two weeks.
Republicans say they will not filibuster. But their actions say otherwise.
Republicans say they are just requiring 60-vote thresholds. But the difference between a filibuster and requiring a 60-vote threshold on nominations is a distinction without a difference.
In a nation founded on a principle of justice for all, it is crucial that we adequately staff our federal courts. And at a time when America faces so many threats abroad, it’s crucial we have a talented and dedicated individual like John Brennan leading our most prominent intelligence agency. Yet Republicans have, again and again, injected politics into the confirmation process – both when considering judicial nominees and, most recently, when considering cabinet nominees.
There was once a time when Republicans were the ones defending the right of the President to choose the players on his team. But back then there was a Republican in the White House. In 2001, the Senior Senator from Utah touted the, “longstanding tradition in the Senate… [to] afford the President a significant degree of deference to shape his Cabinet as he sees fit.” Four years later, after President Bush was reelected, the Senior Senator from Arizona pointed out that elections have consequences and said, “The President has a right to put into place the team he believes will serve him best.”
As we consider key nominations this week, and in the weeks to come, I hope my Republican colleagues honor that longstanding tradition of the Senate. And I urge Republicans to consider that – if the Senate fails to properly staff our national security agencies or the nation’s judicial system – our inaction will also have consequences.