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Republicans: Nominees Must Get Up or Down Vote!

Republicans: Nominees Must Get Up or Down Vote! February 17, 2016

I’ve written many times about how the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate exchange scripts when it comes to the filibuster and judicial nominees every time control of that body changes hands. So here’s a whole bunch of quotes from sitting Republican senators about the inviolable importance of every judicial nominee getting an up-or-down vote:

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Lamar Alexander:

“I pledged, then and there, I would never filibuster any President’s judicial nominee, period. I might vote against them, but I will always see they came to a vote.” (Congressional Chronicle, June 9, 2005)

“I am beginning to think it is a train and that there is not much way to avoid a train wreck. The train wreck I am talking about is a threat by the minority to ‘shut the Senate down in every way’ if the majority adopts rules that will do what the Senate has done for 200 years, which is to vote up or down the President’s appellate judicial nominees.” [Senate Floor Speech, 4/12/05]

“I have pledged and I still pledge to give up my right to filibuster any president’s nominee for the appellate courts.” [Remarks of Senator Alexander, 5/20/05]

Richard Burr:

“If anything, we are saying, for 214 years this institution, the Senate, had a gentleman’s agreement, and that agreement was that the filibuster would never be used for judicial nominees. For 214 years they showed restraint, even though the rule allowed them to do it because they understood that the process was so important to make sure the best and the brightest found their way to the bench. For 214 years a handshake was all it took […] What happened for 214 years? This debate is about principle. It is about allowing judicial nominees an up or-down vote on the Senate floor. And I believe it is an issue of fairness.” [Senate Floor Speech, 5/19/05]

“But denying these patriotic Americans, of both parties, who seek to serve this country an up-or-down vote is simply not fair, and it certainly was not the intention of our Founding Fathers when they designed and created this very institution.” [Senate Floor Speech, 4/20/05]

“There is no doubt in my mind the task includes ensuring that the Senate provides judicial nominees on [sic] up-or-down votes… Obstructing votes on Presidential nominees threatens the future of our judicial system and the nature of the Supreme Court.” [Senate Floor Speech, 5/19/05]

Thad Cochran:

“There should be no question in anyone’s mind about my intentions. I will work in concert with our leader, and with the distinguished Majority Whip, Mr. McConnell, to end filibusters of judicial nominations in the Senate.” [Cochran.Senate.gov, “Senator Thad Cochran Announces Support,” 4/14/05]

John Cornyn:

“I believe, about the process of reestablishing the precedent of majority rule that had prevailed for 214 years in the Senate, that would say any President’s nominees, whether they be Republican or Democrat, if they have the support of a majority of the Senate, will get an up-or-down vote in the Senate. Senators who believe these nominees should be confirmed can vote for them and those who believe they should not be confirmed can vote against them.” [Senate Floor Speech, 5/24/05]

“And we need to get a fresh start. And that means, I believe, an up-or-down vote for all presidents’ nominees whether they be Republican or Democrat… We need a permanent solution to this problem. And I believe it should be along the lines that I suggested, that each president’s nominees would be treated exactly the same and not dependent on who happens to take up the decision to block, in a partisan fashion, a bipartisan majority from being able to cast an up-or-down vote.” [CQ Transcriptions “U.S. Senator John Cornyn Holds a News Conference on Judicial Nominees,” 5/9/05]

“Far too many judicial and executive nominees have been delayed by the majority party of the Senate. An up-or-down vote is a matter of fundamental fairness, and it is the Senate’s constitutional duty to act on each nomination. It is also critically important to our judicial system and the proper functioning of our federal government to fill these positions. Senators have a right to vote for or against any nominee-but blocking votes on nominations is unacceptable.” (Senate website, Feb. 7, 2008)

“That is why the filibusters of judicial nominations have never been a part of Senate tradition before, and why its current usage is such an abomination: Simply put, filibusters are the most virulent form of unnecessary delay one can imagine in the Senate’s exercise of the judicial confirmation power. . . . The indefinite, needless, and wasteful delay caused by filibusters of judicial nominations distracts the Senate from other important business. And it hurts Americans. It leaves not only would-be judges in limbo, but also thousands of litigants. . . . The current filibusters of judicial nominations are not only unprecedented and wrong, they are also offensive to our nation’s constitutional design.” (Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Fall 2003)

“I must say, I find it simply baffling that a Senator would vote against even voting on a judicial nomination.” (Floor statement, Nov. 11, 2003)

Charles Grassley (now chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee):

“Through an unjust abuse of the filibuster, a minority of Senators is preventing a majority of the Senate from taking an up or down vote on President Bush’s judicial nominees, and that is just not right.” (Statement to Voice of America News, Nov. 14, 2003)

“What we’re seeing now is unprecedented. Judicial nominees with clear majority support have never been denied a vote by a partisan filibuster until two years ago, and now we’ve got 10 qualified judges with majority support being held up. The Democrats are denying the Senate its constitutional responsibility of advice/consent by systematically denying appellate court nominees an up-or-down vote. And we can’t find anywheres in the Constitution that says a supermajority is needed for confirmation.” (Press conference, May 19, 2005)

“History has proven the wisdom of having the President place judges with the support of the majority of the Senate. That process ensures balance on the court between judges placed by Republican Presidents and those placed by Democrat Presidents. The current obstruction led by Senate Democratic leaders threatens that balance. It’s time to make sure all judges receive a fair vote on the Senate floor.” [Grassley.Senate.gov, “Talking Judges to Death,” 5/8/05]

“The current obstruction led by Senate Democratic leaders threatens that balance. Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown deserve an up or down vote. It’s high time to make sure all judges receive a fair up or down vote on the Senate floor.” [Senate Floor Speech, 4/23/05]

Orrin Hatch:

“The advice and consent clause [of the Constitution] is clearly an up or down vote—a majority vote—on the floor of the Senate. The Founding Fathers knew what a supermajority vote was. . . . If they had wanted it to be a 60-vote margin . . . they would have said so.” (Deseret News, Nov. 13, 2003)

“[We] must afford the President a significant degree of deference to shape his Cabinet as he sees fit. The election is over, President Bush won, and nothing will change that fact.” (Floor statement on the Ashcroft nomination, Feb. 1, 2001, Cong. Rec. S961)

“Under the Constitution, the President has the primary appointment authority. We check that authority, but we may not hijack it. We may not use our role of advise and consent to undermine the President’s authority to appoint judges. That is why, as I have argued on this floor many times, it is wrong to use the filibuster to defeat judicial nominees who have majority support, who would be confirmed if only we could vote up or down. That is why I have never voted against cloture on a judicial nomination.” (Floor Statement, Oct. 24, 2007, Cong. Rec. S13289)

“All we are asking is the 214-year tradition of the Senate that judicial nominees not be filibustered be followed. That has been the tradition of the Senate up until President Bush became President. All we are asking is that every one of these qualified nominees who have reached the floor receive an up-or-down vote. That is all we are asking.” [Senate Floor Speech, 4/27/05]

“…I think we should bind both Democrats and Republicans that presidential nominees for the judiciary deserve an up-and-down vote once they reach the floor…” [NPR, “Orrin Hatch Discusses Debate in Senate,” 5/19/05]

James Inhofe:

Inhofe stated that he “want[ed] to limit the current battle over the filibuster to judicial nominees and retain the practice on executive branch nominees and legislation. ‘I believe in the filibuster,’ Inhofe said. ‘I don’t think it should be used where it is contrary to the Constitution.’ On Cabinet posts and other executive branch positions filled by presidential appointment, Inhofe said, the filibuster is appropriate even though they, unlike judges, do not receive lifetime appointments. ‘The Constitution refers specifically to judges as opposed to military and executive branch nominations,’ he said.” (Tulsa World, May 22, 2005)

“But the Democrats, who cannot muster a majority to oppose him, are seeking, in effect, to change the Constitutional majority-vote requirement. By sustaining this filibuster, they are asserting that 60 votes, not 50, will be required to approve Mr. Estrada. If successful, their effort will amount to a de facto amendment to the Constitution. This outrageous grab for power by the Senate minority is wrong and contrary to our oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Inhofe said. [Senate Floor Speech, 3/11/03]

Mitch McConnell:

“Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration. But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote. . . . It’s time to move away from advise and obstruct and get back to advise and consent. The stakes are high . . . . The Constitution of the United States is at stake. Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges. The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent. But my Democratic colleagues want to change the rules. They want to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation. In effect, they would take away the power to nominate from the President and grant it to a minority of 41 Senators.” (States News Service, May 19, 2005)

“Because of the unprecedented obstruction of our Democratic colleagues, the Republican conference intends to restore the principle that, regardless of party, any President’s judicial nominees, after full debate, deserve a simple up-or-down vote. I know that some of our colleagues wish that restoration of this principle were not required. But it is a measured step that my friends on the other side of the aisle have unfortunately made necessary. For the first time in 214 years, they have changed the Senate’s ‘advise and consent’ responsibilities to ‘advise and obstruct.’ […]Given those results, many of us had hoped that the politics of obstruction would have been dumped in the dustbin of history. Regretfully, that did not happen.” [Senate Floor Speech, 5/19/05]

“What we’re talking about here is not the filibuster rule overall, but getting back to the practice of allowing judicial appointments for judge candidates who have a majority support in the Senate to have an up or down vote.” [CBS News, The Osgood File, 4/25/05]

“…I don’t want to get too technical here, but the point is, what Senator Frist is considering doing is not unprecedented. It was done by Senator Byrd when he was majority leader. What is unprecedented is the fact that the Senate, for the first time in 200 years, last Congress chose to filibuster judges for the purpose of defeating them. That had never been done before in the history of the Senate. That’s what’s new…What Senate Republicans are contemplating doing and what I think they should do is to get us back to the precedents that were established prior to the last Congress, in which judicial appointments were given an up-or-down – that is, a majority – vote.” [Fox News Sunday, 3/27/05]

“Let’s get back to the way the Senate operated for over 200 years, up or down votes on the president’s nominee, no matter who the president is, no matter who’s in control of the Senate. That’s the way we need to operate.” [Los Angeles Times, “The Nation; Clock Ticks on Effort to Defuse Senate Battle,” 5/23/05]

Lisa Murkowski:

“I take very seriously my obligation under the Constitution to provide the advice and consent to the judicial nominations of individuals who are nominated by the President to serve on the Federal bench. I have heard repeatedly over the hours the term ‘rubberstamp,’ there is a rubberstamp approval. Those on my side of the aisle would automatically take the President’s nominees. I do not take part of my job to mean that my vote is intended to be a rubberstamp of approval for the President’s nominations to these critical judicial positions. I am frustrated that after serving in the Senate for almost a year, and contrary to what some Members may assert, the Senate has not been permitted to vote up or down on the merits, on the qualifications of the individuals who are embroiled in this current dispute. Rather, we have been prevented, I have been prevented as a Member of the Senate, as an individual, from voting for or against a nomination by a legislative procedure, legislative procedural rules unique to this body.” [Senate Floor Speech, 11/12/03]

Jeff Sessions:

“The vote, historically, since the founding of this Republic, is a majority vote. Lets [sic] look at that. The Constitution says that the Congress shall advise and consent on treaties, provided two-thirds agree, and shall advise and consent on judges and other nominees. Since the founding of the Republic, we have understood that there was a two-thirds super majority for ratification and advice and consent on treaties and a majority vote for judges. That is what we have done. That is what we have always done. But there was a conscious decision on behalf of the leadership, unfortunately, of the Democratic Party in the last Congress to systematically filibuster some of the best nominees ever submitted to the Senate. It has been very painful.” (Floor Statement, May 23, 2005)

“But they [the Democrats] blocked an up-or-down vote by carrying out the filibuster rule, and I think that’s a very, very grim thing. It should not occur.” (The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Sept. 4, 2003)

“This past election in large part hinged, as George Allen said, on a debate over the judiciary and whether or not obstruction was justified. I think the American people sent a clear message and I believe it’s time for this Senate to make sure that judges get an up-or-down vote.” [CQ Transcriptions “U.S. Sen. Allen & Other Senate Republicans Hold a Media Availability on the Possibility of a Democrat Filibuster,” 3/15/05]

David Vitter:

“As U.S. Senators, it is our constitutional duty to give advice and consent when a president nominates individuals to the bench. I think that every nominee deserves a vote. It’s a matter of fairness.” [Vitter.Senate.gov, “Vitter Supports Senate Vote on Judicial Nominees,” 5/19/05]

One could, of course, find quotes from Democrats saying the opposite. As I’ve documented previously, they just exchange scripts every few years on this depending on which party controls the Senate. But these arguments are absolutely correct. Every nominee should get an up or down vote within a reasonable period of time, regardless of the party in charge or the party nominating the person for the seat. Always.

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