CCAGW Objects to Filibusters of Federal Judges | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

CCAGW Objects to Filibusters of Federal Judges

Press Release

For Immediate ReleaseContact:Mark Carpenter/Tom
November 12, 2003(202) 467-5300


“Marathon Debate Brings Much-Needed Publicity to Critical Issue,” Schatz says

(Washington, D.C.)—The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) today blasted Senate Democrats for using filibusters to block votes on judicial nominees.  For 30 straight hours - from Wednesday evening through midnight Thursday - Republicans and Democrats will alternate 30-minute exchanges over four filibustered U.S. Appeals Court nominees: Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, Texas judge Priscilla Owen, Mississippi judge Charles Pickering and Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada.  The marathon will conclude with a vote on a proposal to end such filibusters. 

“Senate Democrats have started the ‘Judge Wars’ and are using the filibuster in new and unintended ways,” CCAGW President Tom Schatz said.  “Each of the nominees is a perfectly reasonable choice for vacant judgeships, and the filibusters are a political scheme to prevent the majority vote that the constitution requires.”   

A filibuster is an attempt to block or delay full Senate action by debating it at length or by offering numerous procedural motions.  Amended Senate rules have made the modern filibuster nearly invincible.  Senators are no longer required to personally control the floor.  A minority of 41 Senators simply notifies the Senate leadership of its intent to filibuster.  Other Senate business goes on, but a particular issue or a nomination cannot be brought to a vote, as 60 votes are required to break a filibuster. 

“While opponents may celebrate the blocking of conservative judicial nominees, the filibuster weapon can just as easily be used against any congressional action,” Schatz continued.  “Democrats have set a dangerous precedent: The result could be gridlock on any contested issue, including those affecting their own interests.”

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is operating at 25 percent below its authorized strength of 16 judges.  Of the 12 federal courts, the Sixth Circuit is the slowest in reaching decisions: The average of 16 months is 50 percent longer than the norm for federal circuit courts nationwide.  The court is calling back retired judges and borrowing judges from other circuits and courts to address the backlog of cases.  The nonpartisan Judicial Conference of the United States has declared the four vacant judgeships to be a “judicial emergency.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) have introduced legislation that would give every nominee an up or down vote within two weeks of their nomination. 

“Sen. Frist is right to call the filibuster rule a ‘waste of time and taxpayer money’,” Schatz concluded.  “The proper way to oppose legislation is to vote against it and persuade others to do the same.  Abusing procedural rules to prevent legislative votes obstructs the democratic process and deprives Americans of essential government services.”  

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste is the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste, the nation's largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.


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