Statement of Ralph G. Neas President, People For the American Way on Judicial Nominations

In his remarks today, President Bush left out a few fundamental facts about the state of the federal judiciary. Indeed, the president continued a campaign of misleading the American people. Rather than acting as the bipartisan unifier that he has claimed himself to be, he is pursuing a partisan and divisive strategy.

The judicial "crisis" to which President Bush referred was created by Senate Republicans, who blocked 35 percent of President Clinton’s circuit court nominees while they controlled the Senate from 1995 to 2001. In fact, during this period, 45 percent of Clinton circuit court nominees failed to receive a vote in the Congress during which they were nominated.

The objective of this unprecedented judicial blockade—led by Senators Lott, Hatch and Ashcroft—was clear: provide a Republican president with an opportunity to pack the federal judiciary with right-wing ideologues. And, sadly, that is just what President Bush has been doing.

There is no question that the top domestic priority of the Bush administration and its right-wing allies is to claim control of the federal courts. Their success would overturn decades of legal precedents protecting civil rights, environmental protection, reproductive rights, and so much more. We cannot allow the Bush administration to turn back the clock on fundamental constitutional rights and liberties.

While it would have been understandable for Senators Pat Leahy and Tom Daschle to play the game of tit-for-tat, they have not done so. Despite the challenges posed by the September 11 tragedies and the anthrax scare, the Senate Democratic leadership has managed to proceed with fairness and statesmanship as it fulfills its constitutional role. Already, in the 10 months since Democrats gained control of the chamber, the Senate has confirmed 52 nominees to the federal courts. This figure is more than three times the number confirmed during the first year of the G.H.W. Bush administration and nearly twice as many nominees as were confirmed during the first year of the Clinton administration.

We hope that the Senate will continue to support mainstream judicial nominees and block right-wing ideologues. And we urge the president to abandon his strategy of confrontation and adopt a strategy of bipartisanship, consultation and compromise. Working together, the president and the Senate can successfully resolve the judicial crisis manufactured by right-wing Senate Republicans and their allies. Read our fact sheet on the issue.

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