Charles Grassley

Grassley Says Every Senator Has Right to Vote on Nominees He Filibustered

After trying to block the Senate from holding confirmation votes, Grassley says each senator had a right to a recorded vote on those nominees.
PFAW

GOP Blockade of Unopposed Ark. Judicial Nominees Disrupts Local Election

Chuck Grassley tries and fails to justify his party's obstruction, which is complicating an Arkansas state judicial election.
PFAW

More Evidence that the 'Court Efficiency Act' Isn't So Efficient

Unable to come up with any legitimate reason to filibuster President Obama’s three nominees to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Senate Republicans have landed on a not-so-convincing excuse: They claim that the court has too many judges as it is and that it would be wasteful to fill its remaining vacancies.

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa has even gone so far as to introduce a bill that would permanently reduce the number of seats on the influential court from eleven to eight (the number of active judges currently sitting on the court), thereby preventing President Obama from placing any more nominees on the court. (The president has had one nominee confirmed to the DC Circuit, compared to four nominees under President Bush and eight under President Reagan).

Grassley’s bill would reduce the number of slots on the DC Circuit by three and “reallocate” two of those seats  to circuits that he contends need the judges more.

There are a number of gaping flaws in Grassley’s logic, the first of which is that he and his fellow Republicans were eager to fill the very same DC Circuit seats that they are now trying to eliminate back when President Bush was the one making nominations.

Then, there’s the fact that there seems to be absolutely no basis for reallocating the two D.C. Circuit seats to the Eleventh and Second circuits. The official office that evaluates the needs of federal courts and makes recommendations for adding and removing seats doesn’t include the D.C. Circuit in its recommendations because the court’s caseload is uniquely complex and difficult to compare to that of other courts…and it also hasn’t recommended that the Eleventh or Second circuits get new judges.

This was confirmed by a former Chief Judge of the Eleventh Circuit whose statement  [see p. 34 of this pdf] was submitted into the Senate record last month confirming that his former court indeed does not need new judges:

Since my appointment to the Eleventh Circuit on October 1, 1990, the judges of our court annually have voted whether or not we should ask Congress to authorize more federal judges.  Each time our court considers the topic, an overwhelming majority of our members have voted “no!” 

Even one of the co-sponsors of the court-rigging bill – Sen. Jeff Sessions – has gone on record saying that the Eleventh and Second Circuits actually don’t need new judgeships.

All of which makes one suspect that of all the goals that Sen. Grassley might have in mind with the Court Efficiency Act, the efficiency of the courts is probably not one of them.

PFAW

GOP Puts Politics Above Governance at First DC Circuit Committee Vote

Committee Republicans recycle their old caseload argument to justify a party-line vote against the first of three DC Circuit nominees.
PFAW

Grassley's Own DC Circuit Numbers Fail Him

Even under Sen. Grassley's definition of caseload, his argument against filling DC Circuit vacancies falls apart.
PFAW

Grassley Cites Anonymous Comments to Justify Rigging DC Circuit

The Judiciary Committee's senior Republican embarrasses himself and degrades the Senate with his latest stunt.
PFAW

The Wall St. Journal's Bizarre Attack on Potential DC Circuit Nominations

The Journal calls Obama a "king" for planning to make nominations to fill D.C. Circuit judgeships as Congress has mandated.
PFAW

Senate Confirms Second Woman and First Ever Public Defender to Eighth Circuit

Yesterday, the Senate unanimously confirmed Iowa’s Jane Kelly to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Kelly, who currently serves as a federal public defender, becomes “only the second woman, and the first public defender, to serve in the history of the court that was established in 1891,” according to the Iowa City Gazette.

Kelly also makes history by having the quickest confirmation process of any of President Obama’s appeals court nominees so far, according to the Gazette. Kelly waited just 33 days for a confirmation vote, compared to the average 153 day wait for President Obama’s circuit court nominees (as of two weeks ago). Kelly’s quick confirmation, however, would not have been at all noteworthy at this point in George W. Bush administration, when appellate nominees waited an average of just 37 days between committee approval and Senate confirmation.  

Kelly’s speedy confirmation may have something to do with the senators supporting her. Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, who as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee has been instrumental in obstructing President Obama’s judicial nominees, seemed to put aside his obstruction habits for a nominee from his own state.
 

PFAW

Republicans Seek to Rig the DC Circuit Court

GOP bill would delete three of the vacancies on the DC Circuit so President Obama would be unable to restore balance to this extremely influential court.
PFAW

When the Judicial Nominations Process Works

The filling of an 8th Circuit vacancy is proceeding apace due to commitment and cooperation among the White House and both of Iowa's senators.
PFAW

Still No Explanation From Grassley on Judiciary Committee Delays

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved five nominees to serve on federal district courts in New York, California and Florida and on the US Court of International Trade. A week ago, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley postponed votes on all five nominations without giving a reason, a delaying tactic that he has used on 97 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees who the committee has voted on.

Sen. Grassley did not explain the reason for the delay last week, when a coalition of Iowa and national groups urged him to stop such routine delays. And the reason remained unclear today, as all five nominees were approved without opposition.

These five nominees now join fifteen other federal judicial nominees awaiting confirmation votes from the full Senate. The Senate has made progress by scheduling confirmation votes on four unopposed district court nominees in the past week, but that small amount of progress isn’t nearly enough to fill the gaps in overworked federal courts. Seven of the nominees still waiting for votes would fill officially-designated “judicial emergencies.”

It would be easy, of course, for the Senate to hold votes on all of the remaining nominees before the end of the year. After all, most were approved by the Judiciary Committee many months ago. But Senate Republicans have continued to stall even nominees with strong bipartisan support. All the circuit court nominees waiting for votes have the support of their home-state senators, Republican and Democratic, and nearly all of the pending district court nominees were approved by the Judiciary Committee with unanimous or nearly unanimous bipartisan support. One circuit court nominee, New Jersey’s Patty Shwartz, has been waiting nine months just for an up-or-down vote from the Senate; Federal Circuit nominee Richard Taranto has also been waiting since March.

If the Senate fails to vote on these nominees during the lame duck, the confirmation process – from presidential nomination through floor vote – will have to start all over again next year.

Notable about the district court nominees approved by the Judiciary Committee today is that all are women or people of color, representative of President Obama’s efforts to bring diversity to the federal courts. The nominees also include New York’s Pamela Chen, who would become just the fifth openly gay person to be confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship.

PFAW

More Dissembling from Chuck Grassley

Sen. Grassley again offers a blizzard of misleading statistics to hide his party's obstruction of President Obama's judicial nominees.
PFAW

Grassley's Non-Response on Judicial Nominations

Chuck Grassley issues a misleading response to complaints about his obstruction of resident Obama's judicial nominees.
PFAW

Grassley, Ignoring Iowa Groups, Delays Five Judicial Nominations Without Explanation

Washington, DC – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today ignored the calls of national and home-state groups and delayed Judiciary Committee votes on five federal judicial nominees. Sen. Grassley, the committee’s ranking member, has routinely held back committee votes on judicial nominations for one, two, three, or even six weeks, usually without providing a reason. Ninety-seven percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees who have had committee votes scheduled have met with these delays, before confronting even greater obstruction on the Senate floor.

Yesterday, 16 Iowa and national groups sent Sen. Grassley a letter urging him to end these routine delays of judicial nominees, which have helped create a record vacancy crisis in the federal courts. In response, Grassley flaunted misleading statistics and failed to produce a reason why he has delayed nominees far more frequently than his predecessors.

Ignoring the groups' call, at a hearing today, Grassley postponed committee votes on four federal district court nominees and one nominee for the Court of International Trade. Three of the nominees would fill emergency vacancies. It has been more than two months since the committee heard testimony from the nominees and had the chance to ask follow-up questions.  

“Sen. Grassley has chosen to put petty partisan politics over the wellbeing of our federal courts and the wishes of his constituents,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “Because they take place in committee, Grassley’s delaying tactics usually go under the radar, but that does not make them any less harmful. Grassley and his party are delaying these nominees just for the sake of delay. At a time when federal courts are struggling to meet the needs of Americans, that is simply irresponsible.”

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16 Iowa and National Groups Call on Grassley to End Routine Delay of Judicial Nominations

Washington, DC – A coalition of 16 national and Iowa organizations today called on Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley to end a practice that has needlessly slowed down the confirmation of almost every single one of President Obama’s judicial nominees, helping to create a record vacancy crisis in the federal courts.

Grassley has used his power as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee to routinely delay committee votes on circuit and district court nominees without even providing a reason. These delays at times stretched into two, three, even six weeks. Ninety-seven percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees have seen their nominations delayed in this way, before experiencing long months of further obstruction on the Senate floor.

In a letter to Grassley, the groups said:

No matter the nominee, no matter their qualifications, no matter their bipartisan support … it has been your practice to delay the vote – generally without explanation. This occurs despite an unprecedented vacancy crisis on the federal bench. This isn’t about learning more about a nominee, and it isn’t about delaying someone you think might not be qualified to sit on our federal courts. This is about obstruction, pure and simple. And it is precisely the kind of senseless gridlock that the American people have made clear they reject.

The letter continues:

The committee obstruction is part of a larger picture, one involving deliberate delay and obstruction at all stages of the nomination and confirmation process. But the routine and needless delaying of Committee votes is the form of obstruction for which you bear direct responsibility. And that gives you the power to change the tone by foregoing the practice.

The full text of the letter is below.

November 28, 2012

The Honorable Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
152 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Grassley:

We are writing to you in your role as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee to request that you abandon the practice of routinely delaying votes on judicial nominees in Committee and permit the judicial nominees currently scheduled to be considered at the Judiciary Committee Executive Business Committee meeting on November 29, 2012 to go forward.

Although permitted under Committee rules, the practice of “holding over” nominees in the past was invoked only when there has been a significant question about a particular nominee that warranted additional attention. Under your tenure and that of your predecessor as Ranking Member of the Committee, President Obama’s judicial nominees have virtually all been routinely delayed, despite the absence of any questions, indeed of any debate, on most of the ones held over.

In fact, of the more than 180 men and women who have been scheduled for a Committee vote, all but five – 97 percent – have seen their votes delayed. Indeed, during your tenure as ranking member, all but one nominee’s initially scheduled vote has been blocked.

No matter the nominee, no matter their qualifications, no matter their bipartisan support … it has been your practice to delay the vote – generally without explanation. This occurs despite an unprecedented vacancy crisis on the federal bench. This isn’t about learning more about a nominee, and it isn’t about delaying someone you think might not be qualified to sit on our federal courts. This is about obstruction, pure and simple. And it is precisely the kind of senseless gridlock that the American people have made clear they reject.

Americans want and need Congress to be able to debate the serious issues before us and work together on crafting solutions. But cooperation on areas of contention seems all but impossible if you cannot even work with the president on areas where you agree, such as the vast majority of judicial nominees.

The committee obstruction is part of a larger picture, one involving deliberate delay and obstruction at all stages of the nomination and confirmation process. But the routine and needless delaying of Committee votes is the form of obstruction for which you bear direct responsibility. And that gives you the power to change the tone by foregoing the practice.

Fortunately, you do not have to wait until the 113th Congress to show the American people your ability and willingness to work cooperatively with the president and your Democratic colleagues. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled votes on five judicial nominations for November 29. That is good news for the people of New York, California, and Florida, the states where judicial vacancies would be filled. Three of those courts are in such dire straits that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has formally designated the vacancies as emergencies. All five nominees – three women and two men – testified to the Judiciary Committee back in September, more than two months ago.

You can set the cooperative tone that the American people expect by allowing the Committee to vote on the five nominations as scheduled. Especially with time running out before the end of this Congress, an unwarranted demand to delay the committee votes for these five nominees would be particularly damaging and – should the Committee approve them – would seriously diminish the chances of their confirmation this year. It would also send a terrible signal to the American people of your intentions.

Sincerely,

Alliance for Justice
American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America)
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Compassion & Choices
Constitutional Accountability Center
Defenders of Wildlife
Iowa Citizen Action Network
Lambda Legal
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
National Council of Jewish Women
National Fair Housing Alliance
One Iowa
People For the American Way
Progress Iowa
Working Families Win

 

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PFAW Memo: Debunking the GOP’s Disinformation Campaign on Judicial Obstruction

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, People For the American Way
Date: May 9, 2012
Subject: Debunking the GOP’s Disinformation Campaign on Judicial Obstruction

On Monday, 150 Americans from 27 states met in the White House with senior Administration officials and spent the day lobbying their senators to end the obstruction of qualified judicial nominees. For those Republican senators who may have thought the obstruction that is keeping our court system from functioning properly had gone unnoticed, it must have been an unpleasant surprise to learn their constituents are paying attention.

In response, Senate Republicans are throwing out a lot of irrelevant numbers and misleading comparisons in a desperate attempt to fog the issue, but they are plainly unable to rebut the clear fact that their constituents have noticed: that Republicans are needlessly obstructing judicial nominations.

For instance, because President Bush’s confirmed nominees at this point in his term were processed so much more quickly and fairly than have President Obama’s, the Republican Policy Committee concocts an excuse to ignore that inconvenient truth. They say we should be comparing President Obama’s first term to President Bush’s second term, because both saw two Supreme Court nominations that took up a lot of committee and Senate resources.

That lets them point out that President Obama has had more lower court confirmations in his first term than President Bush did in his second. But there is a reason Bush had fewer judges confirmed in his second term: There were fewer vacancies. When Bush entered office, there were 80 vacancies in the federal courts, a number he cut down to 37 by the end of his first term. In contrast, because of Republican obstruction, the number of vacancies began to climb sharply when President Obama became the person making the nominations, and it has remained at crisis levels his entire time in office.

In addition, although Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were confirmed in 2009 and 2010, the slow-walking of lower court nominations continued in ensuing years. In the 112th Congress, which began five months after Kagan’s confirmation, nominees have been held up on the floor more than three months on average, even if they are unopposed.

Republicans also blame President Obama for not making enough nominations. But the political reality is that the president needs the approval of home state senators if a nomination is to even get a committee hearing. And contrary to the practice of President Bush, the current White House actually consults home state senators in an effort to find consensus nominees. If GOP senators won’t work with the president to identify candidates who they can all agree on, the president is not the one to blame.

In any event, finding a nominee for every vacancy would not solve the bottleneck that Republicans have created at the end of the confirmation process. There are currently 19 nominees on the Senate calendar awaiting votes who could be confirmed today if the Republican leadership gave their consent.

But perhaps the most disingenuous talking point comes from Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. In yesterday’s floor debate on the confirmation of Kristine Baker to a district court in Arkansas – whose nomination has been pending on the floor since February – he says a Bush nominee to the same district was treated far worse:

I would note that President Bush’s nominee, J. Leon Holmes, sat on the executive calendar for more than 14 months awaiting confirmation. From nomination, his confirmation took over 17 months. Again, why was President Bush’s nominee treated worse than this President’s nominee?

Sen. Grassley isn’t comparing apples and oranges – he’s comparing apples and skyscrapers. Holmes was so controversial that even the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee did not approve of his nomination. In a rare step reflecting serious concerns about the merits of the nomination, a sharply divided committee voted 10-9 to forward it to the floor without a formal endorsement. After that, it was the Republicans who then controlled the Senate who delayed the confirmation vote for more than a year, fearing the Senate would reject Holmes. When he was finally confirmed in 2004, it was by a 51-46 vote.

So Republicans delayed a vote on Holmes because he was extremely divisive and lacked support in the Senate. In contrast, Kristine Baker – who cleared committee with a 17-1 vote and was confirmed by a bipartisan voice vote – was delayed by Republicans because of the Sotomayor and Kagan confirmations?

Republicans cannot deny that they are making President Obama’s judicial nominations wait more than 4 times longer for votes than was the case at this point in the Bush presidency, even though most of them are consensus nominees with strong bipartisan support. Their efforts to distract the American people from that stark fact resemble the Wizard of Oz trying to get Dorothy to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

Ultimately, though, this isn’t about statistics. It’s about people. It’s about the people who count on having their day in court, only to learn first-hand that justice delayed is justice denied. It’s the victims of predatory lending practices, consumer fraud, environmental destruction, and civil rights violations. It’s the business owners who can’t get relief from anti-competitive activities, can’t complete their mergers, and can’t enforce their contracts. This is about Americans across the nation who deserve a justice system that works.

Press contact: Miranda Blue, media@pfaw.org, (202) 467-4999

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