Why The Senate Should Reject Attempts To Pack the Federal Judiciary with Right-Wing Judges

Since taking control of the U. S. Senate and the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2001, Senators Daschle and Leahy have moved judicial nominees promptly and responsibly.

The far right is wrong to charge Daschle and Leahy with improper delay and then use these charges to stampede nominations through the Senate.

  • The current pace of confirmations significantly exceeds the pace during the first years of other administrations and the 6 ½ years of Republican control from 1995 to 2001.
  • In the eleven months since Democrats assumed control of the Senate in July 2001, the Senate has confirmed 57 nominations to the federal judiciary. These 57 confirmations are more than three times the number confirmed during the entire first year of the first Bush administration (1989), and more than twice the number confirmed during the first year of the Clinton administration (1993). The pace is significantly ahead of what occurred when Republican Senators deliberately delayed the process in the late 1990s. For example, more Republican-nominated judges were confirmed in the last eleven months than the number of Democratic-nominated judges that were confirmed in all of 1996, 1997, 1999, or 2000. During the 6 ½ years of Republican control, the average annual number of confirmations was 38, 19 less than the number confirmed over the last eleven months. In fact, an average of 5 nominees per month have been confirmed during the last eleven months, a faster pace than during any of the last three presidential administrations, even though some of them worked with Senate majorities of their own party during significant periods.

  • Since the shift in control of the Senate last July, the Judiciary committee has held 19 hearings. In 11 months, Senator Leahy has held 19 nomination hearings on 71 nominees-despite the serious disruptions in Senate business and distractions caused by the 9/11 and anthrax attacks. In contrast, during the previous 6 ½ years of Republican Senate control, the Committee averaged only about nine hearings during a full year. During the last 11 months, more hearings were held than during any full year since 1995 in which the Republicans controlled the Senate.
  • Under Democratic control, the Senate has reversed the significant rise in judicial vacancies caused by the previous Republican-controlled Senate. As a result of the serious delays during the 6 ½ years that the Republican Senate majority controlled the process, the total number of federal court vacancies increased from 65 in 1995 to 111 last July, an increase of over 70 percent. Just since July, when Senate Democrats resumed control, the number of vacancies has decreased from 111 to 87 as of June 11, 2002. For almost half of those vacancies (41), the President has yet to submit a nominee.
  • The current pace of appellate court confirmations significantly exceeds prior confirmations, contradicting right-wing claims. The Senate has confirmed nine appellate court nominations over the last eleven months, with several more expected soon. This already exceeds the number confirmed during the entire first year of the Reagan, G.H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, and exceeds the average of seven per full year during the 6 ½ years of Republican control since 1995. Because of delay and refusal to vote on President Clinton's nominations during that period, the total number of vacancies on the courts of appeals more than doubled from 1995 to 2001, growing from 16 to 33. In the last 11 months, despite several new vacancies, the total number of appellate court vacancies has decreased to 30. This flatly contradicts claims of no progress on appellate court nominees - now made by the same right-wing Senators and advocates who helped create and perpetuate the large numbers of appellate court vacancies.
  • The current unprecedented situation calls for an unprecedented bipartisan solution. The President should reject the demands of the far right, and submit more moderate nominees who are truly qualified for the federal bench. This should include genuine consultation with Senators of both parties both before and after nominations are made.

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