Tuesday, April 26, 2005

History Lesson on Filibuster and Judicial Nominations

Here is a great lesson in history on what occurred before the current battle on Judicial Nominations:
"Prior to 1996, when the Senate majority and the president were from opposing parties, senators usually deferred to the president with respect to lower-court judicial nominations. With the notable exceptions of the 1968 Fortas nomination and a failed Republican filibuster of H. Lee Sarokin in 1994, neither party filibustered the other's judicial nominations, and virtually all nominees received a hearing unless they were sent up after the presidential nominating conventions.

All this changed in 1996. Rather than openly challenge President Clinton's nominees on the floor, Republicans decided to deny them Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Between 1996 and 2000, 20 of Bill Clinton's appeals-court nominees were denied hearings, including Elena Kagan, now dean of the Harvard Law School, and many other women and minorities. In 1999, Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch refused to hold hearings for almost six months on any of 16 circuit-court and 31 district-court nominations Clinton had sent up. Three appeals-court nominees who did manage to obtain a hearing in Clinton's second term were denied a committee vote, including Allen R. Snyder, a distinguished Washington lawyer, Clinton White House aide, and former Rehnquist law clerk, who drew lavish praise at his hearing -- but never got a committee vote. Some 45 district-court nominees were also denied hearings, and two more were afforded hearings but not a committee vote.

Even votes that did occur were often delayed for months and even years. In late 1999, New Hampshire Republican Bob Smith blocked a vote on 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Richard Paez for months by putting an anonymous hold on the nomination. When Majority Leader Trent Lott could no longer preserve the hold, Smith and 13 other Republicans tried to mount a filibuster against the vote, but cloture was voted and Paez easily confirmed. It had been over four years since his nomination.

When his tactics on the Paez and Marsha Berzon nominations (Berzon was filibustered along with Paez, more than two years after her nomination) were challenged, Smith responded with an impassioned floor speech in defense of the judicial filibuster: 'Don't pontificate on the floor of the Senate and tell me that somehow I am violating the Constitution of the United States of America by blocking a judge or filibustering a judge that I don't think deserves to be on the circuit court ... . That is my responsibility. That is my advice and consent role, and I intend to exercise it.' "
Now, if you still think Senator Frist is not full of shit, then you might just want to rethink the whole "leaving the mental institution thing."

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