AGREEMENT ON JUDICIAL FILIBUSTERS; Congressional Record Vol. 151, No. 70
(House of Representatives - May 24, 2005)

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                   AGREEMENT ON JUDICIAL FILIBUSTERS

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the order of the House of 
January 4, 2005, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is 
recognized during morning hour debates for 5 minutes.
  Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, the Republican quest for absolute power in 
Washington was temporarily halted by 14 Senators last night. A truly 
bipartisan group of Senators, 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans came 
together to save the Senate from moving forward with an extreme power 
grab that would have undermined the very checks and balances that have 
existed in our Nation for over 200 years.
  Senator Frist and the Senate Republican leadership were prepared to 
wage an unprecedented political power grab. They wanted to change the 
rules in the middle of the game and wanted to attack our historic 
system of checks and balances so they could ram through a small number 
of judicial nominees who otherwise could not achieve a consensus.
  In reality, the power grab that the Senate Republican leadership was 
prepared to move ahead with today had very little to do with these 
seven extreme nominees. Instead, it was all an attempt by the White 
House and conservative interests groups to clear the way for a Supreme 
Court nominee who would only need 51 votes rather than 60.
  Conservative interest groups and a large majority of Senate 
Republicans are not happy with the current make up of the Supreme 
Court. They do not want to see another David Souter or Anthony Kennedy 
nominated to the Supreme Court, even though they both were confirmed 
with nearly unanimous bipartisan support.
  They prefer to see President Bush nominate a Supreme Court justice 
like Clarence Thomas, who because of extreme views could not garner 
strong bipartisan support. In Thomas's case he only received 52 votes, 
and has proven to be an extremist. If the Senate had proceeded with 
this extreme power grab, President Bush would have been able to appoint 
extreme right wing judges to the Supreme Court.
  The president has already said that he most admires Justices Scalia 
and Thomas. How frightening to think of another Justice from that same 
mold.
  Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day a group of 14 bipartisan Senators 
kept the Senate Republican leadership from moving forward with the 
extreme power grab. The bipartisan compromise was reached last night 
and shows that President Bush is not going to be able to ignore the 
moderate views of these Senators when he appoints future justices of 
the Supreme Court.
  And that is good news for our Nation. There was simply no reason for 
the Senate to take the extreme measure of eliminating the minority's 
right for input on judicial nominees. In fact, the White House has 
manufactured the so-called judicial crisis.
  Over the past 4 years, the Senate has confirmed 208 of his judicial 
nominations and turned back only 10. And that is a 95 percent 
confirmation rate, higher than any other president in modern time, 
including Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton.
  In fact, it is thanks to these confirmations that President Bush now 
presides over the lowest court vacancy rate in 15 years. Now, Mr. 
Speaker, despite what Senate Republicans are saying today, judicial 
nominees have not always received an up or down vote on the Senate 
floor. In fact, back in 2000, it was Senate Republicans that attempted 
to filibuster two of President Clinton's appointments to the 9th 
Circuit Court.
  Senator Frist, the architect of the power grab voted to continue a 
filibuster of Clinton nominee, Richard Paez. There are also other ways 
Senators can prevent a nominee from receiving an up or down vote on the 
floor. Judicial nominees can and have been stalled in the Senate 
Judiciary Committee. More than one-third of President Clinton's appeals 
court nominees never received an up or down vote on the floor because 
Senator, Hatch, then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee refused to 
bring the nominees names up for a vote in the committee.
  It is extremely disingenuous of Senator Frist to say that all 
nominees are entitled to an up or down vote, when he himself helped 
Senate Republicans block President Clinton's nominees in the late 
1990s. You did not hear Senator Frist demanding an up or down vote 
then.
  Now, the bipartisan agreement reached last night will keep two of the 
President's extreme nominees from moving forward. And I would hope the 
President would learn from last night's action that unlike the House, 
the Senate is not a chamber that is going to rubber stamp his extreme 
views.
  Let us hope that President Bush was listening and will resist 
nominating extreme judges to our courts in future.

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