Cornyn Statement to the Senate Republican Conference Forum On Judicial Nominees
I would like to begin by thanking Senator Alexander and Senator Specter for organizing this event, and by thanking all of my colleagues who took time out of their busy schedules to discuss this important issue.
The judicial confirmation process is broken, and, to me, the saddest part is watching these nominees being sacrificed to a partisan blood feud that has nothing to do with them or their qualifications. It is a shame because so many of these nominees are among the finest lawyers, judges, and public servants in our Nation, and they deserve to be judged on their merits.
Instead, the Senate tends to treat these men and women as nothing more than fodder for stoking ancient partisan grievances. Chairman Leahy explicitly justifies his obstruction of qualified judicial nominees on the basis of perceived grievances from nearly a decade ago, citing the "Thurmond rule" that allegedly blocked President Clinton's nominees in 1999 and 2000. As I anticipate we will hear in expert testimony today, the "Thurmond rule" never existed. But unless there is an end to the cycle of partisan payback, Republicans will likely have good cause to cite the "Leahy rule" when blocking qualified Democratic nominees. And so the Senate's cycle of grievance and revenge will continue.
Like the feuding families in Huckleberry Finn, at this point no one in either party can remember when or how this feud began. But I know that it is time for it to end.
I was not yet in the Senate when this cycle of grievance started, and within months of taking my seat in 2003 I was proud to join with the 9 other newest Senators in a bipartisan letter calling for an end to the feud culture of the judicial confirmation process. Just because the system has been broken for a long time is no reason to put off fixing it now. My daughters understood that "everybody does it" and "she started it" were not good enough excuses by the time that they reached kindergarten. The Senate should be better than that.
We will not escape the revenge-based politics of the past without substantial action now. Indeed, now is the perfect time for a new politics of judicial confirmations in which Republicans and Democrats work together to confirm qualified men and women to the federal bench. Now is the perfect time because we are in a Presidential election year, and no one knows who the next President will be. Indeed, the Rasmussen tracking poll of the Presidential election over the past weekend showed the Presidential race is a dead-heat. What a unique opportunity to establish that, regardless of the next President's party, his nominees will be treated fairly and on the basis of their qualifications, not on the basis of ancient political squabbles.
For over 5 years, the rest of my Senate class and I have been calling for a fresh start to the judicial confirmation process. I sincerely believe that, if that fresh start will ever be possible, if the vicious cycle of revenge politics can ever be stopped, the moment is now.