WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Mike Lee blasted the White House for misleading the public on the issue of judicial vacancies and defended Republicans’ record on moving forward with President Obama’s nominations.
“[J]udicial vacancies are down 20 percent from last year and are at the lowest level in nearly three years,” Lee said during his opening remarks at a Judiciary Committee hearing today. “The vast majority of current vacancies remain for one reason -- President Obama simply has not nominated individuals for those judgeships.”
The President has only made 29 nominations for 76 currently outstanding judicial vacancies, and many of the existing nominations are so new they have not yet had the opportunity to be vetted by the Judiciary Committee.
Lee also questioned White House claims of “unprecedented filibusters” by Republicans. “During President Bush’s first three years, Senate Democrats forced 19 cloture votes on judicial nominees—19 votes to filibuster judges. During President Obama’s first three years the Senate took only 6 such votes.”
Full transcript of Senator Lee’s remarks:
May 9, 2012
Senator Mike Lee
I would like to say a brief word about statements made in recent days by the White House and some of my Democratic colleagues regarding judicial nominations.
There has been suggestion of “record judicial vacancies” resulting from “unwarranted obstruction” in the Senate by means of “unprecedented delays and filibusters.”
Of course, none of this happens to be true. I would like to set the record straight.
The reality is that judicial vacancies are down 20 percent from last year and are at the lowest level in nearly three years.
The vast majority of current vacancies remain for one reason -- President Obama simply has not nominated individuals for those judgeships. With respect to the current 76 judicial vacancies, the Obama administration has made only 29 nominations.
And I would note that a number of these nominations are so recent that the Judiciary Committee hasn’t even had a chance to hold hearings. We are doing so today for 5 recent nominees.
The Senate has already confirmed more than 80 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees, approving a larger share without a roll call vote than under President Bush.
To date, the Senate has confirmed 143 of President Obama’s district and circuit judges. That is significantly more judicial confirmations in the first three or so years of the Obama administration than the 120 we confirmed during the previous four years of President Bush’s second term.
And we continue to confirm more. So far this year we are well above historical standards. The average number of confirmations by May 9 for a presidential election year is 11. We have already confirmed 21 judges this year. That’s almost double the normal pace.
Finally, the suggestion of “unprecedented filibusters” is simply ridiculous. During President Bush’s first three years, Senate Democrats forced 19 cloture votes on judicial nominees—19 votes to filibuster judges. During President Obama’s first three years the Senate took only 6 such votes.
We have treated President Obama’s nominees better than the Democrats treated President Bush’s nominees. For the White House or Senate Democrats to suggest otherwise is false and hypocritical.