Sen. Hatch held a single confirmation hearing featuring three controversial appeals court nominees simultaneously – Jeffrey Sutton, Deborah Cook, and John Roberts – on January 29. Scheduling multiple controversial appeals court nominees on a single day violated a longstanding bipartisan agreement. In the mid-1980s, Senators Strom Thurmond, Joseph Biden, Bob Dole, and Robert Byrd agreed in writing that there would be no more than one controversial nominee scheduled at any one time, an agreement that had been followed under both Republican and Democratic control until Hatch’s packed January 29th hearing.
Hatch’s move virtually assured that it would be impossible for senators to prepare thoroughly and for all three nominees to receive sufficient scrutiny. In fact, senators focused their questions on Sutton, meaning that nominees Roberts and Cook were asked very few questions. To date, Hatch has refused requests for additional hearings on these nominees, and as previously noted, violated a standing Judiciary Committee rule in order to push Roberts and Cook out of Committee in spite of the fact that they had not yet been subjected to meaningful scrutiny.
In contrast, Hatch is holding today an additional hearing for Priscilla Owen and is scheduling an additional hearing for Charles Pickering, two nominees who were rejected by the Judiciary Committee last year after in-depth hearings (two in Pickering’s case) at which senators from both parties had ample opportunity to examine their records.