May 23, 2013
“The problem of gridlock in Washington is real and it must be fixed. I am committed to making the Senate work again.”
“Not only have they failed to work with us to schedule votes on nominees in a timely manner, they are doing everything in their power to deny the President his team and undermine his presidency.”
“Before the Republican Leader accuses me of going back on my word, he should take a long look in the mirror. And he should spend some time in honest reflection of Republicans’ own contributions to the gridlock threatening this storied institution before he claims that, quote, ‘there’s no real problem here.’”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding Republican obstruction of nominees. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Yesterday my friend, the Minority Leader, offered a full-throated defense of the dysfunctional status quo here on Capitol Hill. This is what he said: “I think we’ve demonstrated there’s no real problem here.”
Congress has a 15 percent approval rating. But Senator McConnell stood on the Senate floor and said that things here in Congress are going just fine. I think it’s safe to say Americans disagree. And I’m on their side.
Senator McConnell is free to defend the log jam that exists in the Senate today. But I will certainly not join him. The problem of gridlock in Washington is real and it must be fixed. I am committed to making the Senate work again.
Despite the agreement we reached in January, Republican obstruction on nominees continues unabated.
The Minority Leader used strong words yesterday, accusing me of going back on my word to the Senate. I take that accusation seriously.
It is true that in January Democrats and Republicans entered into an agreement. Republicans agreed to cease the endless obstruction of Presidential nominees. They agreed that they would work with us, “to schedule votes on nominees in a timely manner… except in extraordinary circumstances.” I repeat: Republicans agreed they would no longer block the President’s nominees without extraordinary circumstances.
In return, Democrats agreed that we would not consider any changes to the Senate rules outside of the regular order. Democrats have kept our word. We have not altered the rules.
But since we entered into that agreement, Republicans have failed to hold up their end of the bargain. Not only have they failed to work with us to schedule votes on nominees in a timely manner, they are doing everything in their power to deny the President his team and undermine his presidency.
So instead of throwing about accusations, let’s stick to facts.
Republican obstruction has slowed down nearly every nominee that President Obama has submitted. Even Cabinet Secretaries have faced unparalleled procedural hurdles and Republicans are threatening to block many of them altogether.
For the first time in the history of this country, Senate Republicans filibustered the nomination of a Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel – a Vietnam War hero and a Republican Senator from Nebraska.
The Minority Leader himself is threatening to block President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Labor.
Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee submitted an unheard-of 1,100 question to Gina McCarthy, and even boycotted her nomination hearing.
Jack Lew, President Obama’s Treasury Secretary nominee, was asked more than 700 questions for the record, before he was confirmed.
By comparison, when former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was confirmed, he was asked 28 questions.
Executive and judicial nominees who are ready to be confirmed by the Senate have been pending an average of 200 days – more than 6 months. The confirmation process has moved at glacial pace because of extraordinary Republican obstruction.
I have been forced to file cloture on 58 of President Obama’s nominees. By this point in President Bush’s second term, cloture had been filed on only 21 nominees.
But Republicans are not blocking these nominations because they object to the qualifications of the nominees.
Richard Cordray, the nominee to lead the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, is a perfect example. He was nominated by the President in July of 2011, nearly 23 months ago.
Republicans aren’t concerned about Mr. Corday’s ability to do the job. Quite the contrary. If anything, they’re concerned he might actually do the job – protecting consumers from the kind of corporate greed that collapsed the financial markets – a bit too well. If Mr. Cordray received an up-or-down vote he would be confirmed immediately.
Republicans have, similarly, held up nominations to both district and circuit courts.
Four of 11 seats are vacant on the DC Circuit Court, one of the most important in the nation. President Obama is the first President in more than half a century who has not had an appointment confirmed to the DC Circuit Court, but it’s not for a lack of trying.
Republicans stalled confirmation of the President’s first nominee to the court, Caitlin Halligan, for four years. During that time, they successfully filibustered her nomination twice. The seat she was nominated to fill has been vacant since Justice John Roberts was elevated to the Supreme Court in 2005.
And now Republicans have forced me to file cloture on the nomination of Sri Srinivasen, who was nominated for the DC Circuit almost a year ago. This nominee has wide bipartisan support from both sides of the aisle, and was reported out of the Judiciary committee unanimously. But neither stellar qualifications nor bipartisan support is enough to prevent Republican obstruction these days.
According to a report released this month by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, first-term judicial nominees reported out of committee unanimously have waited 9 times longer to be confirmed under President Obama than under President Bush.
President Obama’s first-term district court nominees have waited five times as long those of President Bush. And first-term circuit court nominees have waited more than seven times as long to be confirmed under President Obama as under President Bush.
Yesterday, the Republican leader raised the example of a Wyoming judge as proof they are willing to support our nominees. Minutes later, he blocked that very nominee.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out why we have a judicial vacancy crisis in this country.
I take the Senate’s charge to advise and consent very seriously. But Republicans have corrupted the Founders’ intent, blocking qualified nominees for the slightest reason or for no reason at all.
President Obama deserves to choose his team. I believe any President deserves his or her team. But Republicans have, again and again, delayed or obstructed the President’s nominees.
This Republican obstruction has created an unreasonable and unworkable standard, where minor issues are raised as excuses to block major nominees or to require a 60-vote supermajority for confirmation.
Before the Republican Leader accuses me of going back on my word, he should take a long look in the mirror. And he should spend some time in honest reflection of Republicans’ own contributions to the gridlock threatening this storied institution before he claims that, quote, “there’s no real problem here.”