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Reid: Breaking Promises and Grabbing Power

November 21, 2013


“There is no way that I would employ or use the nuclear option. I want every Republican to hear that.”  Majority Leader Reid, 2009


Today, Majority Leader Reid and Senate Democrats – 33 of whom have never served in the Senate minority – eliminated the filibuster on judicial nominations in the Senate by the very method Reid twice promised he would not use. Why? For the immediate and temporary political purposes of diverting attention from the national Obamacare debacle and increasing the likelihood that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will rubber stamp the President’s agenda. Democrats’ broken promise to the American people – that they could keep their health care plans – is now joined by an equally destructive broken promise not to change the rules of the Senate by a majority vote.


“The nuclear option was the most important issue I’d ever worked on in my entire career because if that had gone forward, it would have destroyed the Senate as we know it.”Majority Leader Reid, March 2009


Leader Reid decided to do this on the flimsy, and false, premise that President Obama’s nominees have not been treated fairly. The President repeated this false promise from the White House after the vote, hoping to give Democrat Senators political cover. 

Make no mistake, today’s power grab is because President Obama and his political allies prefer activism over checks and balances – including the D.C. Circuit’s recent rulings against some of his administrative actions. Democrats believe that changing the court will allow them to cement the President’s agenda through rulings in that court – a court that doesn’t need more judges. 

Pace of Obama’s Cabinet Nominees Is Similar to Previous Presidents’

According to the Congressional Research Service, President Obama’s cabinet nominees are, on average, moving from announcement to confirmation about the same as previous Presidents.

  • President Obama’s cabinet nominees have waited 54 days on average.
  • For President George W. Bush, the average wait was 52 days; and
  • For President Clinton, the average wait was 55 days.

The Senate Has Confirmed Judges

Today’s decision by Democrats to fundamentally change the Senate was not because there has been a problem with President Obama’s nominees being treated fairly and in a timely fashion. And it was not a problem of his nominees not being confirmed.

The Senate has confirmed 215 of President Obama’s nominees to lower court judgeships. Only two nominees have been defeated -- a success rate of 99 percent. In fact, during the 112th Congress, the Senate confirmed more judges than any Congress since the 103rd.

This year alone, the Senate’s confirmation of lower court judges far outpaces the rate for President Bush’s second term.

  • President Obama has had 38 judges confirmed just since his second inauguration, including:
    • 9 circuit court judges;
    • 27 district court judges; and
    • 2 judges to other Article III courts.
  • As of November 21, 2005, President George W. Bush had 14 judges confirmed, including:
    • 7 circuit court judges; and
    • 7 district court judges.

1,707 Confirmations vs. Four Rejections

Senate Democrats’ decision to forever change how the Senate operates also was not caused by Senate Republicans forcing their hand. Republicans have worked with Democrats to confirm 1,707 executive nominees over the past four and a half years. Of all the nominations President Obama has sent to the Senate, only four have been rejected. 

  • During the 111th Congress, the Senate confirmed 920 nominees and rejected one: Craig Becker to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board.
  • During the 112th Congress, the Senate confirmed 574 nominees and rejected two: Goodwin Liu to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit; and Richard Cordray to be the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • During the 113th Congress, the Senate has confirmed 66 nominees and rejected one: Caitlin Halligan to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the D.C. Circuit.

Currently there are other nominees who have not formally been rejected. The nominations of Mel Watt to be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Cornelia Pillard, Robert Wilkins, and Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit are still on the Senate Calendar.