Filibuster Deal Restricts Senators’ Rights to Debate Judicial Nominees

The Heritage Foundation

Todd Gaziano and Andrew Kloster 

This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced a potential filibuster deal that, among other problematic provisions, limits post-cloture debate on federal district court nominees (and non-Cabinet-level officials).

Senators currently have up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate on the merits of a district court nominee; the new rule would permit only two hours. This proposal would seriously undermine the rights of sitting senators to call attention to problematic district court nominees and, as a consequence, would enable the President to make more philosophically questionable and professionally unqualified nominations in the future.

Providing advice and consent to judicial nominees are critical, constitutionally-enumerated responsibilities of U.S. senators. Those confirmed to a federal judgeship retain their job during “good behavior” (virtually for life), and can only be removed by House impeachment and Senate conviction with a 2/3 vote. If the merits of a cabinet secretary are worthy of 30-hours of debate, then any judge appointed for life should be also.

Federal district court judgeships are incredibly important: not only are they on the short list for circuit and Supreme Court nomination (Justice Sotomayor was a district court judge for the Southern District of New York), but district court judges are on the front lines of enforcing federal law, and perhaps more importantly, sit in judgment on whether Congress or the President have exceeded their enumerated powers.

Read this story at blog.heritage.org ...

 
 
 
 
"Those gentlemen, who will be elected senators, will fix themselves in the federal town, and become citizens of that town more than of your state."

-- George Mason, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 14, 1778

 
 
_Townhall.com

January 24, 2012

Phyllis Schlafly

Barack Obama's latest unconstitutional action is his attempt to make four so-called recess appointments to high-level, well-paying jobs in the federal bureaucracy when the Senate was not in recess. He appointed three people to the National Labor Relations Board, plus Richard Cordray to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, even though the Senate had declined to confirm his nomination.

Article II gives the president power "by and with the advice and consent of the Senate" to appoint public officials and judges, and also "to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate." That provision was written to cover the long recesses that were common during the horse-and-buggy days and was certainly not written to enable the president to defy the Senate and appoint persons who the Senate would not confirm.

Obama's action is clearly an attempt to circumvent the U.S. Constitution because the Senate was not in recess when he made these appointments. According to the Constitution, the Senate could not have been in recess when the appointments were made because Article I of the Constitution states that neither House can "adjourn for more than three days without the consent" of the other House, and the House did not consent to a Senate recess.

It seems reasonable that the Senate should have the authority to say whether or not it is in recess. Apparently, [Alleged] President Obama wants to make that a presidential decision.

Obama claims he can call it a recess because the Senate is merely conducting pro forma sessions (i.e., having brief meetings and not doing anything important). In fact, the Senate did pass a bill on Dec. 23 during one of those brief sessions, and the President signed it into law, so it must have been important business.

Even if someone accepts Obama's farfetched argument, that doesn't put him in compliance with the constitutional requirement that the Senate cannot be in recess unless the House has agreed. And the House absolutely did not agree to a recess.

We have a law on the books that requires the attorney general to give the president legal advice on request. Funny thing, Obama won't say whether or not he asked the Justice Department for advice about the constitutional issue before making controversial recess appointments.

The head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Virginia Seitz, issued a statement, dated two days after the appointments were made, that presumes to OK the recess appointments. However, it did not refute the case against the legality of the appointments, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says this memo is "unconvincing."

Read this story at Townhall.com ...