WASHINGTON – Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released the following statement after the Senate voted to change its rules to require a majority vote to invoke cloture on executive and judicial nominees, with the exception of nominations to the Supreme Court:
“The Senate is one of our democracy’s most important institutions. Yet it has been clear for some time that this once great deliberative body has been severely hampered by the extreme overuse and outright abuse of the filibuster to keep the Senate from performing its constitutional duty to ‘advise and consent’ on executive and judicial branch nominees.
Because it requires a super-majority to overcome it, the filibuster is supposed to be an ‘in case of emergency’ legislative tool reserved for extraordinary situations. Instead, it’s now being used routinely to keep highly qualified nominees from receiving simple ‘yes-or-no’ confirmation votes. As a result, our executive and judicial branches are suffering in their ability to provide service and to dispense justice to the American people. The routine use of the filibuster also has been highly corrosive to the comity that enables the Senate to do much of its work.
Majority Leader Reid has done his job by scheduling timely votes on nominees who have been thoroughly vetted by the various committees of jurisdiction, yet the obstruction persists. The Senate as an institution reached its nadir with the filibusters of Congressman Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and of Patricia Millett, Cornelia ‘Nina’ Pillard, and Judge Robert Wilkins to fill long-standing vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, widely acknowledged as the nation’s second-most important federal court. These are nominees of impeccable qualifications, knowledge, and judgment, the kind of people who view public service as a calling and a duty. The fact that those who blocked their confirmations using the filibuster declined to challenge their qualifications, character, or fitness for the offices to which they were appointed speaks volumes about the way the filibuster is being abused.
Senator Reid should be applauded for enabling the Senate to perform its constitutional duties regarding executive branch nominees and judicial nominees below the Supreme Court level. Adoption of the Reid Rule means that Congressman Watt and the three nominees for the D.C. Circuit will finally be judged on their merits, as they should have been in the first place. We are confident that when yes-or-no votes are scheduled, all four will be confirmed.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations,