Feinstein Statement on Senate Debate Rule Change
Apr 03 2019
Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement on the Republican Senate rule change to reduce post-cloture debate on many nominees from 30 hours to two hours:
“Changing the rules is not only unnecessary, but also is dangerous, especially when we are talking about lifetime appointments. Further, given this administration’s failure to properly vet its own nominees, the Senate should not restrict critical vetting and due diligence.
There is simply no need to limit debate on President Trump’s judicial nominees. In fact, President Trump’s judicial nominees have been confirmed at a record pace.
Through his first two years in office, President Trump had more circuit court nominees confirmed than any other President had at the same point in their tenure – 30 total. And that is on top of two Supreme Court Justices and 53 district court judges.
Further, the current administration’s circuit court nominees have been confirmed nearly twice as fast as President Obama’s – 256 days for President Obama’s nominees versus 139 days for President Trump’s nominees.
The rules change is also unnecessary because Senate Democrats are in no way obstructing confirmations. Senate Democrats have not required cloture votes on more than half of President Trump’s district court nominees.
On average, the Senate has used only three hours of floor time for debate on President Trump’s district court nominees.
In addition, a higher percentage of President Trump’s district court nominees have been confirmed by voice vote as compared to President Obama’s district court nominees – 49 percent versus 35 percent. In other words, Senate Democrats have not required the majority to hold roll call votes on nearly half of President Trump’s nominees to the federal district courts.
Finally, Democrats have worked with the Trump administration to identify qualified judicial nominees.
For example, Delaware’s two Democratic Senators – Senators Carper and Coons – worked with the White House to identify two qualified nominees to be judges on the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.
And Senators Durbin and Duckworth of Illinois worked with this administration to identify two highly qualified nominees to be judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Both of those nominees were confirmed unanimously.
In addition, we are right now in post-cloture time on the nomination of Roy Altman to the Southern District of Florida. Several Democrats voted for Mr. Altman in committee, and Democrats have not demanded a full 30 hours of debate time on Mr. Altman’s nomination.
Despite all of this, Republicans are nevertheless breaking the rules and pushing the Senate closer to a body that is governed simply by the whim of the majority.
All of this leads to an unmistakable conclusion – shortening debate time is unnecessary. It is a response to a non-existent problem, and it is simply a power grab meant to stack the courts at an even faster rate.
It is also important to stress why it is so dangerous to allow the Trump administration to stack the courts in this way, without adequate debate time.
We have seen this administration fill lifetime positions with young, inexperienced nominees who are often outside the legal mainstream. And we have seen them try to do this without properly vetting those same nominees, as in the case of Brett Talley, who failed to disclose to the Judiciary Committee nearly 15,000 online comments, including one in which he defended the founder of the KKK.
The Senate needs sufficient time to scrutinize the records of these nominees. Nominees like Matthew Kacsmaryk and Patrick Wyrick, who have led efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act.
Nominees like Brian Buescher, who has argued that states should go after women’s reproductive rights “bit by bit.”
And nominees like Wendy Vitter, who refused to acknowledge that Brown v. Board was correctly decided and who falsely claimed there is a connection between the use of contraceptive pills and the incidence of cancer.
Two hours is simply not enough time to scrutinize these nominees’ records, especially when so many of this administration’s judicial nominees fail to disclose materials to the Judiciary Committee.
In conclusion, Mr. President, all Senators – and not just those on the Judiciary Committee – need adequate time to review the records of these judicial nominees, who, if confirmed, will serve for life.
All Senators need adequate time to make an informed decision about whether these nominees are qualified to decide the fate of thousands of people’s lives. After all, the American people deserve to know that if they find themselves in a federal court, they will have an impartial, qualified, mainstream jurist who has earned the right to sit on the bench.
This decision to break the rules and reduce debate time on judicial nominees not only harms the institution of the Senate, but also harms the federal judiciary.”