Center for American Progress Action

90 Times Senators On The Judiciary Committee Demanded A Vote On Judicial Nominees

90 Times Senators On The Judiciary Committee Demanded A Vote On Judicial Nominees

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has vowed not to hold committee hearings or vote for whomever President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court. But before the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, Grassley, along with his fellow Republican committee members, have passionately insisted that senators have a constitutional obligation to “advise and consent” on a presidential nominee through an up-or-down vote.

Below, are 90 examples from Chairman Grassley, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

Chuck Grassley

  1. But we should get our job done and confirm these nominees because that is what it takes for the judicial branch to get their work done. The judiciary needs to have the personnel to get their job done.” [7/17/08]
  2. “The Senate confirmed Justice Ginsburg. Why? Because President 
    Clinton won an election, campaigning on the basis of the kind of people 
    he was going to nominate, and President Clinton did that. That is what 
    the Constitution says the role of the President, the role of the Senate is
    .” [1/30/06]
  3. “Right after her, Justice Breyer came to the Supreme Court, a liberal as well, appointed by President Clinton. But the Senate confirmed that Justice by a big vote. The President made his choice, sent it to the 
    Senate, the Senate found him qualified, and he was confirmed on an up-or-down vote
    .” [1/30/06]
  4. “The way the Senate provides its advice and consent has been by a thorough Judiciary Committee evaluation, and then by an up-or-down vote in the full Senate.” [1/30/06]
  5. “The Constitution provides the President with the power to nominate Supreme Court Justices. And it provides the Senate with advise and 
    consent duties, presumably ending up in an up-or-down vote.” [1/26/06]
  6. “I voted, as I said earlier to the Senator from Arkansas, for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as did almost all of my Republican colleagues, because we acknowledge the President’s — that was President Clinton — primacy in the appointments to the Supreme Court, even where we knew this Justice Ginsburg had a different philosophy.” [9/28/05]
  7. “[I]t seems to me as a result of the last election, when approving judges was very much an issue to the American electorate, they are now rejecting the will of the American people.” [5/23/05]
  8. “It seems to me the Constitution is very clear on the role of the 
    Senate in this judicial confirmation process. Judicial nominees are 
    chosen by the President with the advice and consent of this body…For over 200 years, no judicial nomination, with a clear majority support in the Senate, had ever been denied an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. This was the case regardless of whether a Republican or Democratic President was in office. This was the case, regardless of whether the Senate was controlled by Democrats or Republicans.” [5/23/05]
  9. The Constitution demands an up-or-down vote. Fairness demands an up-or-down vote.” [5/23/05]
  10. For judicial nominations, it is the Senate’s responsibility to 
    determine whether nominees are qualified for a position they are 
    nominated to, and to say so through an up-or-down vote. Let a majority 
    of the Senate decide if they are qualified
    . [5/23/05]
  11. Throughout our Nation’s history, it has only taken a majority of 
    Senators to determine a nominee’s qualification for the judge position they are appointed to
    . It seems to me after a 214-year history, that is history worth continuing. [5/23/05]
  12. The reality is no other Senate majority has been excluded from judicial 
    confirmation process in 214 years. We need to restore tradition and the 
    law of judicial process. We need to give these nominees the up-or-down vote the Constitution requires. We need to stop a systematic denial of our advice and consent responsibilities which have been shuttered by the use of the filibuster. [5/23/05]
  13. It is high time to make sure all judges receive fair up-or-
    down votes on the Senate floor, up-or-down votes for judicial nominees of both Republican and Democratic Presidents alike
    in the tradition of the Senate for 214 years, until 2 years ago.” [5/23/05]
  14. “In my town meetings across Iowa, I hear from people all the time, Why 
    aren’t the judges being confirmed?
    ” [5/23/05]
  15. “I hear from Iowans all the time that they want to see these nominees 
    treated in a fair manner, and they want to see an up-or-down vote.” [5/23/05]
  16. “Let’s debate the nominees and give our advice and consent. It is a 
    simple ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ when called to the altar to vote
    .” [5/23/05]
  17. “Nothing is nuclear about asking the full Senate to take an up-or-down vote on judicial nominees. It is the way the Senate has operated for 214 years.” [5/23/05]
  18. “We need to return to a respectable and fair process. We need to 
    return to the law and the Constitution. We need to return to the 
    Senate’s longstanding tradition. We need an up-or-down vote for these judicial nominees.” [5/23/05]
  19. “They have hijacked the judicial confirmation process in an unprecedented filibuster of judicial nominees, and they are denying these good men and women an up or down vote.” [11/12/03]
  20. “The reality is that the Constitution of the United States gives the 
    President the power to appoint individuals to seats on the Federal 
    judiciary. The Constitution gives the Senate the responsibility to 
    advise the President in this process. And the Constitution requires the 
    Senate, by a simple majority vote, to give its consent to the President’s choices for Federal judgeships, or to withhold that consent
    .” [11/12/03]
  21. “But through an unjust abuse of the filibuster, a minority of Senators is preventing the majority of the Senate from taking an up or down vote on President Bush’s judicial nominee. That is not right.” [11/12/03]
  22. “However, once the Senate Judiciary Committee has had the opportunity 
    to review these candidates and to approve them, these individuals should get an up or down vote by the full Senate. This is the right process. This is a fair process.” [11/12/03]
  23. “During my tenure with the United States Senate, I haven’t always agreed with a sitting President’s choices for the Federal bench. I have voted against a number of judicial nominees because I didn’t believe they were qualified to be a judge, or because I didn’t believe that a seat needed to be filled. But I have never filibustered a judicial nominee.” [11/12/03]
  24. “The Senate is supposed to provide advice and consent. The Democrats are denying the rest of the Senate our responsibility under the Constitution to give our consent — or even to withhold our consent. It is a terrible disgrace and ought not to continue.” [11/12/03]
  25. “We need to stop this unjust filibuster and give these worthy nominees what they deserve — an up or down vote.” [11/12/03]
  26. “This nominee, like all nominees, deserves an up-or-down vote
    Anything less is absolutely unfair.” [2/27/03]
  27. These obstructionist efforts are a disgrace and an outrage.” [2/27/03]

John Cornyn

  1. “Mr. President, I rise this morning to join my colleagues because I share their concerns about the immediate need to schedule hearings and then up-or-down votes on 10 highly qualified judicial nominees currently pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.” [4/10/08]
  2. “So it will likely come to pass once again that last year’s and the previous year’s grievances will be used again, not without some justification, by Senate Republicans to justify the obstruction of a future Democratic President’s judicial nominees, which shows the death spiral we are involved in when it comes to not taking care of the Nation’s work, not allowing an up-or-down vote of judicial nominees on the floor of the Senate. When it comes to judicial nominations, the Senate is supposed to be, as Senator Specter said, the world’s greatest deliberative body.” [5/6/08]
  3. “I am greatly disappointed the Judiciary Committee has been so slow to act on these important nominations. I would ask the chairman again to push forward with hearings and give the nominees an opportunity for an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. There is no doubt the American people deserve, and our very concept of American Government requires, qualified judges who understand the proper role of a judge, which is not to be another branch of the legislature dispensing their view of justice, sort of on an ad hoc basis, but, rather, judges who believe their job is to interpret and enforce the Constitution, not to make up the law as they go along.” [5/6/08]
  4. “Indeed, I believe it was because of the interest groups that we had several years of near meltdown when it came to the unprecedented use of the filibuster to block a simple up-or-down vote on the President’s nominees, something that had never happened before that time in the 200 years of the history of the Senate, and particularly when it came to judicial confirmation votes.” [9/21/05]
  5. “Ultimately, though, the Constitution provides the authority to choose to the President and the President alone. The Constitution does not contemplate the Senate being cochoosers of the nominee but, rather, the President making that choice and then the Senate providing advice and consent during this judicial confirmation process, ultimately leading up to an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.” [9/21/05]
  6. “We should conduct ourselves in a way worthy of this great body, which has served the Nation for more than 200 years, and which time after time after time, when there has been a vacancy on the Court, has done its job, providing advice and consent, asking hard questions, investigating the background of the President’s nominees — but ultimately providing an up-or-down vote to each and every one of the President’s nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.” [7/1/05]
  7. “But for this secret negotiation conducted by 14 Senators that none of the rest of the Senate was a party to, we would be, 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.” [5/24/05]
  8. “But I would only add that one violation of the Constitution is one too many. And when it comes to giving an up-or-down vote to a President’s judicial nominee, which has happened for 214 years up until 4 years ago this last May 9, we are simply talking about treating people as they deserve to be treated — with respect. We are talking about treating Presidents who have won national elections with the respect they deserve, not as a rubberstamp but to provide the advice and consent that the Constitution contemplates when it comes to judicial nominees.” [5/20/05]
  9. “But we know that bipartisanship is a two-way street, that you cannot claim to be bipartisan when a partisan minority seeks to obstruct, and has successfully obstructed for the last 4 years, a bipartisan majority from getting a simple up-or-down vote for nominees such as Priscilla Owen. In order to have true bipartisanship, both sides must agree to treat each other fairly and apply the same rules and standards regardless of who happens to be President, whether it is a Republican or Democrat, and regardless of who is in the majority, whether it is a Republican or Democrat majority.” [5/20/05]
  10. “You would think the end is near for this institution listening to some of the rhetoric, when all we are talking about is trying to restore this 214 years of unbroken tradition of providing an up-or-down vote for any nominee who enjoys bipartisan majority support in this Chamber as this nominee, Priscilla Owen, does.” [5/20/05]
  11. “First of all, do nominees such as Priscilla Owen, whose picture is to my right — somebody who I know personally and worked with for 3 years on the Texas Supreme Court, who I know to be a fine, decent human being and outstanding judge — deserve confirmation to the Federal bench or, at a minimum, do they deserve an up-or-down vote? No one is suggesting that any Senator violate their conscience. Indeed, if any Senator believes they cannot in good conscience vote for this or any other nominee, of course, we would expect them to cast a “no’’ vote on the confirmation. But we would expect at least for them to allow there to be a vote.” [5/20/05]
  12. “In other words, this is not an example justifying the actions being taken against this President’s nominees. This is an example of why the obstruction we have seen is wrong and unfair. All we are asking for in this debate is a simple up-or-down vote for this President’s nominees.” [5/18/05]
  13. “We are doing a disservice to the Nation and a disservice to this fine nominee in our failure to afford her that up-or-down vote.” [5/18/05]
  14. “We should all subscribe to the notion that any nominee of any President, if they enjoy majority support in the Senate, should get an up-or-down vote. I am talking about whether we have a Democrat in the White House or a Republican, whether we have Democrat majorities in the Senate or Republican.” [5/18/05]
  15. “It is intolerable that the standards now change depending on who is in the White House and which party is the majority party in the Senate. And it is simply intolerable that this nominee — this fine and decent human being — an outstanding judge has wasted 4 long years for a simple up-or-down vote. Yes, we need a fair process for selecting fair judges, after full investigation, full questioning, full debate, and then a vote. Throughout our Nation’s more than 200-year history, constitutional rule and Senate tradition for confirming judges has always been a majority vote. And that tradition — broken 4 years ago after this nominee and others were proposed by the President — must be restored. After 4 years of delay, affording Justice Owen a simple up-or-down vote would be an excellent start.” [5/19/05]
  16. “In fact, that is what has happened throughout American history — until our worthy adversaries on the other side of the aisle decided to obstruct the President’s judicial nominees and they were denied the courtesy of that fair process, that fair debate, and an up-or-down vote. Let me just conclude by saying this really should not be a partisan fight. Indeed, what we want is a fair process. We want a process that applies the same when a Democrat is in the White House and Democrats are in the majority in the Senate as we do when a Republican is in the White House and Republicans are in the majority in the Senate. We want good judges.” [2/16/05]
  17. “That is why over these last 2 years we have heard Members on this side of the aisle time and time again come to the Senate and say not only is this filibuster unfair, but, indeed, blocking an up-or-down vote by a bipartisan majority of this body is, in fact, in violation of the fundamental law of our land.” [11/18/04]
  18. “My hope is we will have learned that is not the way the Senate should conduct itself and that we will resolve among ourselves and resolve among the American people and to the people we represent that we will treat the President’s judicial nominees fairly, that we will treat them with dignity, and that we will provide the up-or-down vote the U.S. Constitution demands when it comes to the confirmation of the President’s judicial nominees.” [11/18/04]
  19. “What we have seen in this Senate — and I believe the American people cast a vote, at least in part, on November 2 — is, as I have said, unconstitutional filibusters. And what I believe the American people cast a vote on on November 2, particularly when it came to the Senate minority leader race, the race in South Dakota, was a repudiation of obstructionism and the unconstitutional use of the filibuster to block the President’s nominees who, if allowed the simple dignity of an up-or-down vote, would have been confirmed as I speak.” [11/18/04]
  20. We ask for an up-or-down vote today on President Bush’s judicial nominees, and we would ask that rather than answering “stop’’ to all of the Republican agenda on behalf of the American people, we could at least get an up-or-down vote.” [4/1/04]
  21. “Notwithstanding the fact that Miguel Estrada was a highly qualified, very successful appellate lawyer, someone enormously qualified to serve on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, he was denied the courtesy of an up-or-down vote. No one suggests that any Senator who thinks they should vote against a nominee should not do so. Certainly, we should all vote our own conscience, and we will be held accountable by the voters at the next election, but what has happened is a bipartisan majority was simply obstructed by the gamesmanship and the unprecedented way in which this President’s judicial nominees have been treated, such as Miguel Estrada, who represents the manifestation of the American dream.” [3/26/04]
  22. “We have somehow gotten involved in this game of tit for tat, of recrimination, that does not serve the best interests of the American people. We have gotten into unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees by filibuster, which has never in the history of this great Nation happened until recently, and it is a tragedy.” [11/6/03]
  23. “My point is they simply cannot be congratulated for an unconstitutional, unprecedented filibuster and preventing up-or-down votes, which is democracy in action.” [11/6/03]
  24. “Today’s vote is just the first in a series this week. Over the next 4 days, we will see just how far the minority in this body is willing to go to block well qualified nominees and parrot the talking points provided by special interest groups who oppose this and other highly qualified judicial nominees. It is my hope that the Senate will do the right thing and provide an up-or-down vote for this judicial nominee.” [7/29/03]
  25. I hope that my colleagues will give these qualified nominees what they deserve, and allow them to have an up or down vote, today, tomorrow, and every day this week. For the sake of the Senate, the Nation, and our independent judiciary, I hope that we will not have 4 days of filibusters. I hope my colleagues will vote to allow this fine judge an up-or-down vote.” [7/29/03]

Orrin Hatch

  1. “Judicial appointments, however, are different than legislation. The Constitution assigns the power to nominate and appoint judges to the President. And judicial, as opposed to executive, appointments also dramatically affect the third branch of government. When it comes to judicial nominations, therefore, debate should be a means to an end. The end of the judicial confirmation process must be an up-or-down vote for nominations reaching the Senate floor.” [12/14/05]
  2. “America’s Founders envisioned no such thing but actually advised against it. The Founders gave the power to nominate and appoint exclusively to the President. The Senate’s role is to advise the President whether he should appoint someone he has already nominated, expressing that advice through an up-or-down vote.” [11/16/05]
  3. I hope this will be a fair, honest, and thorough process that results in an up-or-down confirmation vote. I applaud the minority leader for saying this morning that every judicial nominee is entitled to an up-or-down vote.” [11/16/05]
  4. “Allowing an up-or-down vote on these nominees will return us to the Senate’s 214-year tradition.” [6/7/05]
  5. “The Senate, acting through a majority, checks the President’s power to appoint by voting on whether to consent to those appointments. You will notice it is the Senate — not the minority — who does that check. Any Senator may vote against any nominee for any reason, but we must vote. We followed that tradition for more than 200 years, and we should recommit ourselves to it now.” [5/23/05]
  6. “The Constitution assigns the nomination and appointment of judges to the President, not to the Senate. The Senate checks that power by deciding whether to consent to appointment of the President’s nominees. We exercise this role by voting on confirmation.” [5/23/05]
  7. “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.” [4/27/05]
  8. “If our colleagues on the other side do not want to vote for them, they can vote against them. That will be their right. I would fight always to maintain that right. But give them a vote, vote up or down. That is what we have always done for 214 years before this President became President.” [4/27/05]
  9. “This principle that every judicial nomination reaching the Senate floor deserves an up-or-down vote not only has constitutional roots and historical precedent, it also has citizen support.” [4/27/05]
  10. “Giving judicial nominations reaching the floor an up-or-down vote, that is, exercising our role of advice and consent through voting on nominations, helps us resist the temptation of turning our check on the President’s power into a force that can destroy the President’s power and upset the Constitution’s balance.” [4/27/05]
  11. “To be honest with you, Mr. President, just think about it. All we want to do is what the Senate has always done. Once a nominee comes to the calendar, that nominee deserves a vote up or down under the advise and consent clause which is clearly a majority vote.” [11/12/03]
  12. “It goes against all the honorable traditions of this body for Senators to rest behind a veil of procedural votes rather than taking a public stand on the merits of this outstanding nominee.” [9/4/03]
  13. “After all, all he or any of us wanted was an up-or-down vote, something we have always given every nominee who has come to the Senate floor and has been called up on the Senate floor.” [9/4/03]
  14. “I just hope we wake up in this body and start treating people with fairness which the advise and consent clause of the Constitution demands. I hope that works on both sides.” [9/4/03]
  15. All we want is an up-or-down vote on these people. That is all we want. If they are defeated, we can live with it. If they pass, I hope the other side can live with that. But I don’t think it is too much to ask for the President’s nominees who are brought to the floor of the Senate to have an up-or-down vote. I don’t think that is too much to ask, and I don’t think the American people believe that is too much to ask.” [7/25/03]
  16. Not one should be denied an up-or-down vote, once they are brought to the floor of the Senate. I believe that is true.” [7/25/03]
  17. “In any event, if there is a vacancy on the court, the nominee must be treated civilly, fairly and allowed an up-or-down vote by the full Senate, as the Constitution contemplates.” [5/7/03]
  18. “Now, while the debate about vacancy rates on our federal courts is not unimportant, it remains more important that the Senate perform its advice and consent function thoroughly and responsibly.” [5/21/98]

Jeff Sessions

  1. We have not had a judicial filibuster in 214 years and we should not have one now.” [5/24/2005]
  2. “When President Clinton was President and he sought nominees that he chose for the Federal bench, and people on the Republican side discussed whether a filibuster was appropriate, the Republicans clearly decided 
    no and allowed nominees such as Berzon and Paez to have an up-or-down vote. They were given an up-or-down vote and both were confirmed, even though they were controversial. I think that was significant.” [5/24/2005]
  3. “It ought to be used only in the most serious circumstances — the most serious circumstances of the kind we have today when, after 200 years of tradition, 200 years of following the spirit of the Constitution to give judges up-or-down votes, the Senate is systematically altered as it was in the last Congress.” [5/24/2005]
  4. “Isn’t it true that Trent Lott, the Republican majority leader, sought cloture to give Berzon and Paez an up-or-down vote, and those of us who opposed Berzon and Paez, as the Senator from Kentucky did, voted for cloture to give them an up-or-down vote and then voted against them when they came up for the up-or-down vote?” [5/23/2005]
  5. “I am so pleased to hear today that those who have reached the 
    compromise have said that we will give Bill Pryor an up-or-down vote.” [5/23/2005]
  6. “She [Priscilla Owen] should not have been blocked and denied the right to have an up-or-down vote.” [5/23/2005]
  7. Since the founding of the Republic, we have understood that there was a two-thirds supermajority for ratification and advice and consent on treaties and a majority vote for judges.” [5/23/2005]
  8. “Those two nominees, Berzon and Paez, which I strongly opposed — and I think a review of their record would show they have been activist and should not have been confirmed. But Orrin Hatch said in our Republican conference: No, let’s [sic] don’t filibuster judges; that is wrong.” [5/23/2005]
  9. “I was a new Member of the Senate, as the Senator from California said 
    she was. He [Hatch] stepped up and said: Don’t filibuster. We need to give them and up-or-down vote. The then-majority leader, Trent Lott, moved for cloture to give them an up-or-down vote. I voted to give Berzon and Paez an up-or-down vote, and we did that.” [5/23/2005]
  10. “It is time to bring that to a conclusion. One of our great traditions 
    in the Senate is to give a nominee an up-or-down vote
    .” [5/19/2005]
  11. “The Republican majority leader of the Senate, Trent Lott, called those nominees up and asked for an up-or-down vote by cloture motion. Those of us who opposed them — I certainly was one of them — voted for cloture, voted to give them an up-or-down vote, even though we intensely opposed them. They were given an up-or-down vote, and they were confirmed.” [5/19/2005]
  12. “President Clinton’s nominees, when the majority was in the hands of the Republicans, were moved, after full debate and an opportunity to make 
    their case. They brought them up, and they were given that up-or-down vote. That is the principle under which the Senate has operated.” [5/19/2005]
  13. But Chairman Hatch has been consistent. When he opposed Clinton nominees, he gave them an up-or-down vote, and so did Trent Lott.” [5/19/2005]
  14. “Justice Owen and Justice Brown are both immensely qualified to serve 
    on the Federal bench. They deserve fair consideration by this body. 
    That should come in the form of an up-or-down vote, not a filibuster.” [5/18/2005]
  15. “What the Senate has said no to is an up-or-down vote. They have denied these nominees a vote. In each case, these nominees have proven they have a majority of the Senators in this body ready and willing to confirm them, if they are given the up-and-down vote. The systematic use of the filibuster that is occurring now has never before occurred in the history of this Senate.” [11/12/2003]
  16. “As to the Constitution, I will just point out article II, section 2, quoted by the Senator — this is what it says — the President “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors [and] judges. . . .’’ Historically, this body has felt that constitutional language meant treaties required a supermajority, two-thirds vote, and judges would be confirmed by a majority vote, and that is what we have done.” [11/12/2003]
  17. “Madam President, I am pleased to be here today to seek an up-or-down vote on the attorney general of Alabama, Bill Pryor, who has been nominated to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States of America.” [11/6/2003]
  18. “You know from Miguel Estrada, he has already received 54 or 55 votes 
    for confirmation, which is a clear majority. But because he does not 
    have a 60-vote margin, he is not able to come up for an up-or-down 
    vote. I hope we are not going to see that in the case of Priscilla Owen. 
    She is entitled to an up-or-down vote.” [4/7/2003]
  19. “I hope my colleagues will not take that route and will give her an 
    up-or-down vote
    .” [4/7/2003]
  20. These are good men and women who have left their jobs and careers. They are committed to public service for a period of time. We need to give them an up-or-down vote.” [7/18/2001]

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