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Senate Democrats are hypocrites on judicial nominees

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Meet the Filibuster Flip-Floppers

Senate Democrats are hypocrites on judicial nominees

When President Bill Clinton was nominating judges, Democrats frequently insisted all nominees were entitled to an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

Now they falsely argue that filibustering judicial nominees is a thoroughly constitutional practice rooted in Senate tradition.

Between 1789, when the Constitution was ratified, and March 6, 2003, when 44 Senate Democrats blocked “cloture,” and thus a final floor vote, on the appellate court nomination of Miguel Estrada, no federal judicial nominee with majority support in the Senate was ever blocked by a filibuster.

Since then, Democrats have blocked nine other nominees put forth by President Bush, including seven currently waiting to be confirmed.

Here are the duplicitous remarks of six Democratic senators who have flip-flopped on judicial filibusters.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.)

Once Supported Up-or-Down Vote:
“According to the U.S. Constitution, the President nominates, and the Senate shall provide advice and consent. It is not the role of the Senate to obstruct the process and prevent numbers of highly qualified nominees from even being given the opportunity for a vote on the Senate floor.” (Congressional Record, May 14, 1997)

Now Opposes Up-or-Down Vote:
“So we’re saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn’t too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don’t you think so?” (Remarks at MoveOn.org rally in Washington, March 16, 2005)

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.)

Once Supported Up-or-Down Vote:
“If, after 150 days languishing in a committee there is no report on an individual, the name should come to the floor. If, after 150 days languishing on the executive calendar that name has not been called for a vote, it should be. Vote the person up or down. They are qualified or they are not.” (Congressional Record, Sept. 28, 1998)

Now Opposes Up-or-Down Vote:
“We have to have the process where the rules are respected, where we have checks and balances in our government, and where people seeking lifetime appointments must demonstrate not only honesty and competency but the fact that they are in tune with the values and the needs of the American people. Unfortunately, in the case of 10 judges, many of us believe the nominees sent by the White House do not meet that test.” (Congressional Record, April 20, 2005)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.)

Once Supported Up-or-Down Vote:
“A nominee is entitled to a vote. Vote them up; vote them down. . . . It is our job to confirm these judges. If we don’t like them, we can vote against them. That is the honest thing to do. If there are things in their background, in their abilities that don’t pass muster, vote no.” (Congressional Record, Sept. 16, 1999)

Now Opposes Up-or-Down Vote:
“[O]ut of 205 judges, we haven’t confirmed 10 submitted by the President and have chosen to filibuster those, the Republicans want to break the filibuster rule. And I think that’s a big problem.” (CNN’s “Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer,” April 17, 2005)

Sen. Teddy Kennedy (Mass.)

Once Supported Up-or-Down Vote:
“The Constitution is clear that only individuals acceptable to both the President and the Senate should be confirmed. The President and the Senate do not always agree. But we should resolve these disagreements by voting on these nominees–yes or no.” (Congressional Record, Jan. 28, 1998)

Now Opposes Up-or-Down Vote:
“But what has not ended is the resolution and the determination of the members of the United States Senate to continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this President of the United States for any . . . federal court in the United States.” (CNN’s “Inside Politics,” Nov. 14, 2003)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.)

Once Supported Up-or-Down Vote:
“I . . . do not want to see the Senate go down a path where a minority of the Senate is determining a judge’s fate on votes of 41. . . . [D]uring the Republican administrations I rarely ever voted against a nomination by either President Reagan or President Bush. There were a couple I did. I also took the floor on occasion to oppose filibusters to hold them up and believe that we should have a vote up or down.” (Congressional Record, Sept. 16, 1999)

Now Opposes Up-or-Down Vote:
“If you remove the checks and balances so that you can nominate judges who will be basically an arm of one element of the Republican Party, then you have taken a giant leap toward an unfettered executive controlling all three branches of the federal government. . . . It will not only demean the Senate . . . but it will destroy the comity on which it depends.” (Congressional Record, April 22, 2005)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.)

Once Supported Up-or-Down Vote:
“I also plead with my colleagues to move judges with alacrity–vote them up or down. But this delay makes a mockery of the Constitution, makes a mockery of the fact that we are here working, and makes a mockery of the lives of very sincere people who have put themselves forward to be judges and then they hang out there in limbo.” (Congressional Record, March 7, 2000)

Now Opposes Up-or-Down Vote:
“We will invoke every rule in the Senate that we can, without standing in the way of vitally needed programs, to show the people who put it in power that they cannot just by fiat undo 200 years of American history.” (Fox News’ “Special Report,” April 21, 2005)

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