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Actions speak louder than words. Democrats’ votes on nominee filibusters have rendered them positively silent.
Today marks the second anniversary of President Bush’s first batch of 11 nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals. He began nominating three months earlier than other new presidents, and his three predecessors saw their first 11 appeals-court nominees confirmed in an average of 81 days. None took longer than 202 days.
Today, 730 days later, the Senate has confirmed only seven. One has yet to have a Judiciary Committee hearing, one is waiting for a Senate vote and, yes, the other two are held up by filibusters. These filibusters, quite simply, are designed to abolish majority rule so a minority can get its way.
Debate in the “world’s greatest deliberative body” is normally unlimited, and there’s only one formal way to impose the limit necessary to vote on anything. Under Senate Rule 22, a motion to “invoke cloture” requires three-fifths of senators to pass. A new report, released today by Concerned Women for America, documents every past vote by current senators to “invoke cloture” on judicial nominations. A senator who opposes nominee filibusters will vote for cloture, and vice versa.
Cloture votes are the only objective way to measure senators’ real view on the subject. The results summarized here are based on cloture votes through May 5, 2003. Nearly 80 percent of senators have cast cloture votes on judicial nominees of both Democrat and Republican presidents.
- Forty current senators have always voted for cloture on judicial nominations; 38 of them, a whopping 95 percent, are Republicans.
- Forty current senators have voted for cloture on judicial nominations 50 percent of the time or less; 40 of them, an even more whopping 100 percent, are Democrats.
- Seventy-five percent of Republicans have always voted for cloture on judicial nominations, compared to 4 percent of Democrats (Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Zell Miller of Georgia).
- Ninety-two percent of Democrats have voted for cloture on judicial nominations 50 percent or less; not a single Republican has a record that low.
Those are the actions, but the real story comes when you compare them to the words. This new report also ranks senators based on their support for cloture on judicial nominations. Remember, a senator who opposes filibusters will vote for cloture. A senator who votes for cloture most consistently gets the highest rank.
Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said on Oct. 5, 1999: “I find it simply baffling that a senator would vote against even voting on a judicial nomination.” Sen. Daschle ranks 60th among his colleagues, voting for cloture just 50 percent of the time. Now that’s baffling.
Former Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., promised on June 18, 1998, to “fight against any filibuster of a judge.” He ranks 66th, voting for cloture just 47 percent of the time. Not much fight in him, I guess.
Former Judiciary Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said on June 21, 1995: “Senators who believe in fairness will not let a minority of the Senate deny [the nominee] his vote by the entire Senate.” He ranks 90th, voting for cloture just 35 percent of the time. I guess he doesn’t believe in fairness.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, implored his colleagues on June 22, 1995, not to “hide behind this [filibuster] procedure. Have the guts to come out and vote up or down.” He ranks 92nd, voting for cloture just 33 percent of the time. Hey “No Guts” Tom, come out, come out, wherever you are!
And Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., denounced nominee filibusters on June 21, 1995, as “pitiful.” He asked: “Why can we not have a straight up-or-down vote on this without threats of a filibuster?” He ranks 98th, voting for cloture a mere 29 percent of the time. That’s pitiful. The Senate can’t have straight up-or-down votes on nominees because Sen. Lautenberg won’t vote for cloture.
Actions speak louder than words.