(Senate - May 23, 2013)

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[Pages S3792-S3793]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                         MAKING THE SENATE WORK

  Mr. REID. Mr. President, as a boy, as I grew up, what I wanted to be 
was a baseball player. It didn't take long until I learned I was not 
big enough, fast enough, or good enough to be the baseball player of my 
dreams, but that has not taken away my love of the game. I have 
followed it so closely for many years. I follow it really, really 
  I was a cheerleader for any team Greg Maddux was on. He came from 
Valley High School, from Las Vegas. Almost immediately he was a star 
baseball player in the Major Leagues. Whatever team he was on was the 
team I cheered for.
  I have been here in Washington now for a number of years. They have 
had in recent years a professional baseball team. I am reminded that 
when I was going to law school, working in this building, I went to 
Griffith Stadium and watched baseball games. I only watched two, but I 
watched the Washington Senators play the New York Yankees twice--Mickey 
Mantle, Yogi Berra, all that crowd. I remember that.
  In recent years--in fact, the last 2 years--I have focused on the 
Nationals a lot because of another phenomenon from Las Vegas by the 
name of Bryce Harper. He has meant so much to that team, as we learned 
last night. He is recovering from running into the wall at full speed, 
hurting himself. But last night he was the reason they won--hit a home 
run and a double in the 10th inning and made a sensational catch. He is 
really very good.
  The reason I mention that is that Davey Johnson is the manager of the 
Washington Nationals. He has managed five different Major League 
Baseball teams. He is one of the greatest managers in the history of 
baseball. He won pennants, won national championships. But what would 
the Washington Nationals be like today if he did not have the ability 
to have the players he wanted? Someone would say: OK, you can have your 
third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, but you are going to have to wait--not at 
the beginning of the season, you are going to have to wait until 
August. We are willing to have him come in August. Or their first 
baseman, Adam LaRoche--he is a good first baseman, Golden Glove. But 
you can't have him for a while. Wait for a few months and then bring 
him on.
  That is an example of what is going on in the Senate. The President 
of the United States does not have the team he wants, the team he 
  Yesterday my friend--and he is my friend--the minority leader offered 
a full-throated defense of the dysfunctional status quo here on Capitol 
Hill. Here is what he said: ``I think we have demonstrated there is no 
real problem here,'' talking about the Senate. This he said yesterday 
on this floor.
  Congress has an approval rating I don't even like to talk about. It 
is very low. Senator McConnell stood on the Senate floor and said 
things here in Congress are going just fine. I think it is safe to say 
Americans disagree, and I am on their side. Senator McConnell is free 
to defend this Republican-created logjam that exists in the Senate 
today, but I will not join him in this defense. The problem of gridlock 
in Washington is real, and it must be fixed. I am committed to making 
the Senate work again.
  These remarks I am giving today are only in an effort to get this 
body to work well. There is nothing sinister in what I am saying. I 
just want the Senate to work well. I have been here a long time, and it 
did not work this way before.
  Despite the agreement we reached in January of this year, Republican 
obstruction on nominees continues unabated--no different than it was 
the last Congress.
  The minority leader used strong words yesterday accusing me of going 
back on my word. I take that accusation very seriously. It is true that 
in January Democrats and Republicans entered into an agreement. 
Republicans agreed to cease the endless obstruction of Presidential 
nominees. They agreed they would work with us ``to schedule votes on 
nominees in a timely manner except in extraordinary circumstances.'' 
This is what he said, what the minority leader said. I just quoted 
that. He said it this year. I repeat, ``Republicans agreed they would 
no longer block the President's nominees without extraordinary 
  Look at the dictionary about ``extraordinary circumstances.'' Here is 
how it is defined: ``going beyond what is usual, regular, or 
customary.'' That is not some definition I came up with, that is the 
definition in the dictionary. ``Extraordinary'' is defined as ``going 
beyond what is usual, regular, or customary.''
  In return for their saying that is what they would do, we agreed that 
we would not consider any changes to the Senate rules outside of 
regular order. Democrats have kept our word. We intend to keep our 
word. We have not altered the rules. But since we entered into that 
agreement, Republicans have failed to hold up their end of the bargain. 
What they have done these past 5 months has not been usual, regular, or 
customary as defined in the dictionary. Not only have they failed to 
work with us to schedule votes on nominees in a timely manner, they are 
doing everything in their power to deny the President his team and thus 
undermine Obama's Presidency.
  Instead of throwing about accusations, let's look at the facts. Let's 
stick with the facts. Republican obstruction has slowed down nearly 
every nominee President Obama has submitted. Even Cabinet Secretaries 
have faced unparalleled procedural hurdles, and Republicans are 
threatening to block many more of them. For example, in the some 230-
plus years we have been a country, for the first time in the history of 
this country, while a war is going on and one is winding down, for the 
first time in the history of this country, Senate Republicans 
filibustered the nomination of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel--who, 
by the way, is a Republican and, by the way, is a Vietnam hero for his 
combat activities there and was a Republican Senator from Nebraska.
  The minority leader himself is threatening to block President Obama's 
nominee for Secretary of Labor, and he said so. The Secretary of Labor 
is a good person. He put himself through school working as a garbage 
man. His parents are immigrants.
  What we have done here for generations of the Senate is we have had 
hearings on these nominees. That is the way it should be.

[[Page S3793]]

  In recent years, after the hearings have taken place, a Senator will 
say: I have a few more questions. We will send them. Usually there 
would be two or three or four or five questions. Secretary Geithner, 
who recently resigned as Secretary of the Treasury, got 28 questions.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Would the majority leader yield for a question?
  Mr. REID. No, I am going to finish my statement.
  What happens in these committees is they ask all the questions they 
want, but 28 questions is not enough for them. For example, on Gina 
McCarthy--the President asked her to be the Director of the EPA--more 
than 1,100 questions were submitted to her after the hearing.
  Jack Lew--who has basically had many jobs in government--had a full 
hearing. They gave him more than 700 questions to answer. This has 
gotten way out of hand. Anything they can do to slow things down, that 
is what they do.
  Executive and judicial nominees who are ready to be confirmed by the 
Senate have been pending an average of 200 days--more than 6 months. 
Let me repeat that: Executive and judicial nominees who are ready to be 
confirmed by the Senate have been pending an average of 200 days. That 
is more than 6 months. The confirmation process has moved at a glacial 
pace because of extraordinary Republican obstruction.
  Cloture has been filed on 58 of President Obama's nominees--58. By 
this point in President Bush's term, cloture had been filed on a 
handful of nominees. Republicans are not blocking these nominations 
because they object to the qualifications of the nominees.
  This body passed something called Dodd-Frank. It was an answer to 
what was going on on Wall Street--the collapse of Wall Street. Richard 
Cordray, the nominee to lead the Consumer Finance Bureau--which is part 
of that bill that is now law--is a perfect example. He was nominated by 
the President of the United States almost 2 years ago--23 months ago. 
Republicans are not concerned about his ability to do the job. They are 
afraid, I guess, he would do his job too well. He is extremely well-
qualified. If anything, they are concerned he might, as I said, 
actually do the job, protecting consumers from the kind of corporate 
greed that collapsed the financial markets in the first place. If he 
received an up-or-down vote here today, he would be approved in a 
minisecond, however long it takes to call the roll.
  I have a couple of other examples. Yesterday we talked about the D.C. 
Circuit. By statute, the D.C. Circuit--some say the most important 
court in America, more important than the Supreme Court--has 11 spots. 
Justice Roberts went to the Supreme Court in 2005. His spot has not yet 
been filled. We have tried, but there have been two filibusters 
stopping that. There are four vacancies there.
  President Obama is the first President in more than 50 years who has 
not had an appointment confirmed in the D.C. Circuit, but it is not 
because we have not tried. For example, we tried to get Caitlyn 
Halligan for 4 years, but her nomination has been filibustered twice. 
The seat she was nominated for--I repeat--was the seat vacated by 
Justice Roberts in 2005. Today it is 2013. Do the math.
  Now Republicans have forced cloture on this nomination even though 
Sri Srinivasan was nominated for the D.C. Circuit a year ago. Even 
though it was reported out of the committee unanimously, they have 
decided to stall and not have a vote on it.
  The nominee has wide bipartisan support, it appears, from both sides 
of the aisle. If it was reported out of the committee unanimously, I 
would assume that is the case. Neither stellar qualifications nor 
bipartisan support are enough to prevent Republican obstruction.
  According to a report released this month by the nonpartisan 
Congressional Research Service, first-term judicial nominees who were 
reported out of committee unanimously have waited nine times longer to 
be confirmed than under President Bush. President Obama's first-term 
district court nominees have waited five times longer than those 
previously. The first-term circuit court nominees have waited more than 
seven times longer.
  Yesterday the Republican leader raised the example of a Wyoming judge 
as proof they are willing to support some of our nominees. Wyoming--as 
I indicated yesterday, there may be a more Republican State in the 
Union, but I don't know where it is. I said, well, let's schedule a 
vote yesterday--Wednesday. The Republican leader said no.
  It doesn't take a mathematician to figure why we have a judicial 
vacancy crisis in this country. We can talk about how we cleared most 
of the calendar. I take the Senate's charge to advise and consent very 
seriously, but Republicans have corrupted the Founders' intent by 
blocking qualified nominees for the slightest reason, if no reason.
  President Obama deserves to choose his team, just as Davey Johnson 
deserves to choose his team. I believe any President deserves his or 
her team.
  The Republicans have again and again delayed or obstructed the 
President's nominees. This Republican obstruction has created an 
unreasonable and unworkable standard where minor issues are raised as 
excuses to block major nominees or require a 60-vote supermajority for 
  Before the Republican leader accuses me of going back on my word, he 
should take a long look in the mirror, and he should spend some time in 
honest reflection of Republican contributions to the gridlock 
threatening this storied institution before he claims ``there is no 
real problem here.''