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For Immediate Release
January 24, 2002
Press Briefing Excerpt by Ari Fleischer 01/24/02
Despite the President's action of nominating a record of 90 highly qualified individuals to the Federal Bench, the Senate has left 47 languishing. By this point in previous administrations, by way of comparison, only 20 of President Clinton's nominees were left languishing or still awaited action. Only nine of former President Bush's nominees at this point in his administration awaited action, and only four of President Reagan's.
The pace of this Senate is by far way behind the pace of previous Senates. It's too slow, for example, with only three of the original 11 judges that President Bush nominated on May 9th have even received hearings -- only three who were nominated back in May have received hearings.
There are currently 101 vacancies in the federal judiciary. Chief Justice William Rehnquist recently stated that there is a judicial vacancy crisis. This vacancy crisis is an impediment to justice in the President's opinion and the American people deserve better.
The President deserves to have his team in place, particularly during a time of war, and the American people deserve to have a government fully staffed. The President has done his part. It's now time for the Senate to do its.
Q Ari, following up on your opening statement, who in the Senate is responsible for the inaction on the judicial nominees?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if you take a look at the pace of what's happened, the President made his first nominations in May. The Senate then changed parties in June. And so for that short one-month period where the Republicans controlled the Senate, I don't think anybody's expecting one-month action on judicial nominations. So since the change in the Senate, since June, when it came under Democratic control, it really has been a very slow movement on the President's judicial nominees.
I know some of the Democrats like to say they confirmed more nominees in the last six months than the Republicans confirmed in the first six months. Well, of course, they did. The President didn't make any nominations until May. So I think that wherever it is, whether it's with any one senator, or whether it's more than one senator -- which is often the case in the Senate -- and there have been cases, isolated, where Republicans put holds on nominees -- again, those were isolated -- it doesn't matter to the President who individually has placed a hold on a nominee. What matters to the President is that the vacancies on the bench be filled up, so that Americans can go to court and expect quick action in a court, and not a delayed action because there are so few court rooms that have judges sitting in the chairs. And that's where the President's concern is.