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For Immediate Release
December 14, 2001
Press Briefing Excerpts by Ari Fleischer 12/14/01
"Before I Take Questions, I Want to Make a Statement. as Another Week comes to a close and we draw closer to the end of the year, I'd like to remind the Senate once again the important work that remains to be done when it comes to confirming presidential appointments.
The Senate has failed to act upon 157 nominees that President Bush has made. These include Eugene Scalia, the President's nominee to be solicitor at the Department of Labor. Mr. Scalia is an eminently qualified labor attorney who has demonstrated in his committee hearing that he would be a dedicated advocate of the policies of the Department of Labor.
And while a majority of the Senate has announced that they would support his vote, he has waited over 200 days to be confirmed, and that's not right.
In addition, the President has nominated individuals to serve as federal judges at a record pace this year. And yet, there are more vacancies in the Federal Judiciary now than when President Bush came into office. The reason is because the Senate has failed to act. And the Senate has failed to act on 37 of the President's nominees to the Bench.
The failure to confirm qualified individuals in the Judiciary hurts the American people. It's time for the Senate to act on the President's nominees and assure that the important work of America's government can be done, and that justice can be carried out.
Finally, in terms of confirmations, on March 22nd, 2001, the President announced his intention to nominate Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. March, 22nd, 2001; and the Senate has failed to even have a hearing on Mr. Reich. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee refuses even a simple request to give the man his day in court or a fair hearing.
It's not right for the President to be denied his entire -- his right to have an entire foreign policy team in place. And Otto Reich needs to be put in place. His position is critical to our relationships with our partners in the Western Hemisphere, at a time when nations in Central and Latin America are looking for leadership from the United States to help them with difficult internal issues. This is especially true as we assemble a world-wide coalition to fight the war against terrorism.
Also, Mr. Reich has a bipartisan majority of the votes in his committee, and the votes to confirm by the full Senate as well. And that is why one committee is blocking him from having a fair hearing. The President has asked for a hearing, Secretary Powell has repeatedly asked for a hearing, three former Secretaries of State have asked for a hearing for Mr. Reich, and yet they will not proceed. He has been confirmed by the Senate twice before. He is qualified, he has dedicated his career to public service. And particularly when you consider some of the previous promises made by Democratic members of the Senate, it's hard to understand why they won't give him a hearing.
"We will confirm the President's nominations to enable him to run the government he is elected to administer." That was Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on June 6th. "Everyone will get a fair hearing." Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on June 17th. "We're going to move as quickly as we can. I think that every administration deserves to have its people in place." Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Christopher Dodd, back in June, and he still has not moved.
So I think it's very important for the Senate to take action on the judicial nominations, as well as the other nominations that are pending in the Senate. I'm pleased to take your questions."
Q Ari, has the hold-up on Scalia, is there any concern in the White House that might be some sort of a payback for the Bush vs. Gore Supreme Court decision?
MR. FLEISCHER: It doesn't matter what the motive is; it's wrong to do. People deserve a vote. People deserve their fair day at a hearing. Particularly when they have been promised hearings. If they never intended to give the President's nominees hearings, they should have said so. They should have said, we will not allow fair hearings, we will not proceed quickly, we will not let you get your team in place. But they have committed to doing that, and it's important if they gave their word to keep it.
Q So there's no concern that the son may be being punished for the perceived sins of the father?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, it's not the White House's position to guess what the motives are of the Democrats. What the President is interested is results and action. He understands there may be people who oppose these people for a variety of reasons. Bring it to a vote. Let every senator have their say for whatever their motives. But it's wrong not to act and wrong not to vote. It's especially wrong to never have a hearing.