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Fixing the Process
- Over a year ago, the President proposed a common-sense plan to
return fairness and dignity to the judicial confirmation process - a plan
to ensure that every nominee receives fair treatment and that vacancies in
the judiciary can be addressed in an orderly, systematic way. Under the
- Judges have been asked to give notice of their intention to step
down one year prior to leaving the bench.
- The President will submit a nominee within 180 days of judicial
- The Senate should hold an up-or-down vote within 180 days of the
President submitting the nomination.
- The President is matching his plan with action. Since the
President announced his plan, he has submitted more than 100 judicial
nominations to the Senate. With few exceptions, these nominations were
submitted within 180 days of the announcement of the plan or within 180
days of receiving notice of a court vacancy or intended retirement -
despite the extensive interviews and background checks required before a
nomination. In those few cases where extraordinary circumstances prevented
strict compliance with the 180 day deadline, nominations were announced
within a matter of days following the deadline.
- Despite these efforts, some Democratic Senators continue to block
the process and forestall votes on nominees to the federal courts of
appeals. The Senate should give these distinguished jurists an up-or-down
vote on the Senate floor. Each Senator should vote how he or she thinks
best, but each nominee deserves a vote.
- As President Bush said, "No matter who is President or which party
controls the Senate, the American people deserve a well-functioning,
independent judiciary and a commitment by all Senators to live up to their
The delays in the process are causing vacancy crises in many of our nation's federal appeals courts.
- When the federal courts are understaffed, they cannot act in a timely manner to resolve disputes that affect the lives and liberties of Americans.
- There is now a 12% vacancy rate in the U.S. Courts of Appeals.
- Fifteen of the appeals court seats for which the President currently has nominations pending have been declared "judicial emergencies" by the Judicial Conference of the United States.
- The President has submitted 42 superb nominees for the federal courts of appeals. Eighteen of them are still waiting for a vote in the Senate - and 8 of those 18 have been waiting more than a year.
The President's nominees are highly qualified and deserve a vote.
- The President's nominees are known for their character, experience and intellect.
- Each shares the President's philosophy that judges should follow the law, and not make the law.
- Each of the nominees has strong bipartisan support.
- The President's nominees represent the mainstream of American law and values.
- All of the President's appeals court nominees who have been rated have received a "qualified" or "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association.
It is time to fix the broken confirmation process.
- It's time to restore dignity and fairness to the judicial confirmation process and to address the vacancy crisis, particularly in the appeals courts, as Republican Senator Cornyn and Democrat Senator Pryor recently advocated on behalf of the 10 new United States Senators.
- The President has proposed a comprehensive three-Branch plan to fix the process and end the vacancy crisis. He has proposed that judges give one-year advance notice of retirement when possible, that Presidents submit nominations within 180 days of receiving notice of a vacancy or intended retirement, and that the Senate vote up or down on nominees within 180 days after nomination. The plan would apply now and in the future no matter who is President or which party controls the Senate.
- The Judicial Conference has done its part. In March they adopted the President's proposal for one-year advance notice by judges of an intended retirement.
- The President is submitting nominations within 180 days of receiving notice of a vacancy or intended retirement, and today he signed an executive order formalizing his commitment to prompt nomination.
- Now it is time for the Senate to act. Every nominee deserves a vote in a reasonable amount of time, a principle that Senators on both sides of the aisle have advocated:
- Senator Harkin on September 14, 2000 stated: "...I'll just close by saying that Governor Bush had the right idea. He said the candidate should get an up or down vote within 60 days of their nomination."
- Senator Leahy on October 3, 2000 stated: "Governor Bush and I, while we disagree on some issues, have one very significant issue on which we agree. . . . [T]hat is what we are paid to do in this body. We are paid to vote either yes or no - not vote maybe. When we hold a nominee up by not allowing them a vote and not taking any action one way or the other, we are not only voting maybe, but we are doing a terrible disservice to the man or woman to whom we do this."
- Senator Daschle on October 5, 1999 stated: "...I find it simply baffling that a Senator would vote against even voting on a judicial nomination."
- Senator Biden on March 19, 1997, stated: "I respectfully suggest that everyone who is nominated is entitled to have a shot, to have a hearing and to have a shot to be heard on the floor and have a vote on the floor."
Let each Senator vote as he or she thinks best - but give every nominee a vote.
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