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Extension Of Morning Business

Sen. Mark Warner

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I thank my colleague from Colorado. I ask unanimous consent that 7 minutes of morning business be added to each side and at the end of that time, the Senate stand in recess as provided for under the previous order. I thank my colleagues on the other side for their courtesy.

Without objection, it is so ordered.

The Senator from Alaska.

Mr. President, I am pleased to join my colleagues on the floor today to discuss what none of us are the least bit happy to see happening in the U.S. Senate.

We were sent here by the people of our States to get work done. This means passing legislation and overseeing the work of Federal agencies.

It is difficult, if not impossible, for Federal agencies to do the work Congress and the American people want them to do if they spend months--in some cases, years--leaderless. It is impossible for them to do their work if they can hope that a momentary peace will break out in the Senate to allow for confirmation of the presidential designee for their respective agency.

As Senators, we are endowed with a constitutional responsibility to lend our advice and consent to the men and women a President nominates to run agencies and parts of agencies.

Career civil servants can do a lot. We would be lost without them. But they do not have the authority, or the accountability to Congress and the American people to accomplish what a President selects them to do.

Yet many of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would deny President Obama any of his nominees. I believe a President--the current President or any future President with whom I am lucky enough to serve--is due a great deal of deference in his or her selections for Senate-confirmable positions.

For our Republican colleagues, it would seem there is a belief that the Federal Government should just not function, certainly any government led by President Obama.

We have seen the slow-walking, the indefinite--and indefensible--holds on nominations for crucial national security positions. Only when Armed Services Chairman Levin took the unusual step of embarrassing colleagues who were placing a hold for their home State politics did a number of important nominees get reported out of our committee.

There is still a hold by one of our Republican colleagues--unbelievable as it may seem--on the promotion of an Army general while our Nation is involved in two wars.

But the problem and the cynicism of Republican obstructionism is seen nowhere as obviously as in the judiciary. There are currently 103 Federal judge vacancies.

Several nominees reported out of the Judiciary Committee have been denied votes in the Senate by Republican ostructionism for almost 200 days. In some cases the judicial seat to be filled has been vacant for years.

It is clear that--even if they are in denial about who was elected in

Obstruction of nominees hurts the functioning of the government our colleagues have strived to be part of. If they continue to block qualified nominees, our Republican colleagues only further demonstrate their unwillingness to perform the duties for which they were elected and prove their disdain for the constitutional responsibilities with which they have been entrusted.

I yield the floor.

The Senator from Maryland.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin

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Mr. President, let me thank Senator Warner for organizing this presentation to point out the abuses the minority has used in blocking the responsibility of the Senate to confirm appointments made by the President. I believe in the right of the minority. At times, it needs to be exercised. But it has been abused. The American people need to know that because it is affecting their rights and the ability of agencies and the courts to protect the rights of Americans.

Let me cite one number: 60 individuals the President has nominated for important offices have been blocked in their confirmation votes on the Senate floor even though their nominations were approved by the committees either by voice vote or unanimous vote or by significant supermajorities. These are just being delayed, when we now know the final outcome will be approval. As a result, Americans are being denied judges on the courts and administrators who can help enforce their rights.

We have already heard the circumstances about our courts, how we have had to take to a cloture vote, which means floor time, for the nomination of Judge Keenan, who received 99 votes and no one in opposition. We have two vacancies on the Fourth Circuit right now. These appointments have been approved overwhelmingly by the Judiciary Committee--Albert Diaz and James Wynn--by votes of 19 to 0 and 18 to 1. They have the support of Senators Burr and Hagan. Yet they have still not been brought to the floor for a vote. That represents a 20-percent vacancy on the Fourth Circuit, denying the people of my region their full representation on the appellate court.

We are very proud of legislation we have passed to help the disabled--the ADA law--to guarantee gender pay equity with the Lilly Ledbetter law, and genetic discrimination prohibition legislation. But it takes the EEOC to enforce those rules. President Obama has submitted four nominees for the EEOC. They have been approved by the committee by voice votes, which means they are not controversial. Yet we cannot bring those nominations to the floor for quick action because Republicans are abusing their rights to hold up action on the floor of the Senate to carry out our constitutional responsibilities to act on the President's nominations.

This is denying the people of America the protections they are entitled to by the courts and by agencies. It is wrong. It is time for this practice to end.

I yield the floor.

Sen. Mark Begich

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The Senator from Arizona.

Sen. Jon Kyl

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I ask unanimous consent to speak for 15 minutes.

Without objection, it is so ordered.