Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., used words from the Pledge of Allegiance to demonstrate his disappointment with Senate Democrats' filibuster of the President's judicial nominees.
Senate Democrats voted against "cloture" for Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown and California state Judge Carolyn Kuhl. Cloture is a parliamentary move that requires 60 votes to shut off a filibuster and move to an up-or-down majority vote on a nominee. The votes failed 53-42, 53-43, and 53-43 respectively.
"The last six words in the Pledge of Allegiance, ‘with liberty and justice for all,' mean that we do not preserve justice or liberty for a few people, or for most of the people, and leave a few, or even an individual, behind. It means we have justice for all, for everyone, and that we don't make exceptions because we have a high percentage of success," said Enzi.
Enzi and Republican colleagues undertook a nearly 40-hour marathon debate Wednesday night through Friday morning aimed at drawing attention to the ongoing Democrat filibuster on some of President Bush's circuit court nominees.
Senator Michael B. Enzi
It was exactly 200 years ago, in 1803, that the Supreme Court and our nation's judicial system went through its first and most dramatic change since it was established by the Judiciary Act of 1789. This change occurred when then Chief Justice John Marshall issued his decision in the landmark case, Marbury vs. Madison. In that decision Marshall established the responsibility of the federal court to review the constitutionality of congressional actions. His action brought the courts out of almost obscurity, seen as the weakest and most timid of the three branches of government, and gave it a prominence and power that is not equaled by any other court system in the history of the world.
Before Justice Marshall was appointed to the court in 1801 the court seemed to lack direction. There was no clear idea of purpose or vision about whether or not the court could consider itself to be an important entity. The very first Supreme Court Session was held in New York City in 1790. It was almost postponed when only three of the original six justices arrived for the court's opening session. The court had to wait and put off doing business until a fourth justice arrived and they had enough judges to constitute a quorum.
Justice Marshall himself did not initially consider the court to be a prominent institution. At the time of his appointment to the court, he was also serving as Secretary of State for President John Adams and he had turned down an earlier appointment to the court in order to run for a seat in the US House of Representatives. After President Adams finally talked him into serving as Chief Justice of the court, Justice Marshall served as both Chief Justice and Secretary of State for two months because he felt it wasn't worth giving up the position of Secretary of State to serve on the Supreme Court.
Over the next 34 years Justice Marshall reinvented the court and provided the leadership it needed to assume the prominent role it plays in our court system today.
One has to wonder what Justice Marshall would think about what is going on in the Senate today. Would he agree with my colleagues across the aisle that it is all right to put partisan politics and partisan bickering ahead of the rights of judicial nominees if those impacted are just a small fraction of society. Would he agree with them that justice denied for a few was acceptable? Or would he hold true to the basic tenets of the Constitution that all men are created equal and that everyone has the right to their day in court?
A lot has been made about the numbers 168 to 4. But the comparison being made is really one of apples and oranges. You really can't compare district court judges with circuit court nominations. Instead we should look at this situation for what it really is, an attempt to obstruct the confirmation of circuit court judges. Since January 2003 President Bush has nominated a total of 29 circuit court judges. Of those judges only 12 or 41 percent have been confirmed. Of the remaining 17, my colleagues across the aisle have obstructed or threatened to obstruct 11 qualified and talented judges, or in other words, almost 50 percent of the circuit court judges ready to come to the floor for confirmation have been held up by the Democrats for political purposes.
Every day that the Senate is in session we begin with a word of prayer and with the Pledge of Allegiance. I know that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, are firmly committed to this country and that, as they say the words of the Pledge, like me, they mean every word of it and that they honestly pledge their allegiance to the flag and to this nation. But I have to wonder if they haven't forgotten the meaning of all the words in the pledge, especially when I hear them put forward the argument that we do not need to vote on all of our judicial nominees because we have already voted on some or most of them. The last six words in the Pledge of Allegiance, "with liberty and justice for all," mean that we do not preserve justice or liberty for a few people, or for most of the people, and leave a few, or even an individual, behind. It means we have justice for all, for everyone, and that we don't make exceptions because we have a high percentage of success.
In fact, this is one of the situations that the courts were created to protect, the rights of the individual. I think it is a little ironic that there are those here in the Senate that would be willing to withhold justice and rights from some, in this case four highly qualified individuals, and would not extend justice to all, just because those individuals don't have the same political philosophy.
While it may be true that the percentages of judges that have been voted on is high, when you are the one that is left out and are not allowed justice, that is 100% of your life that is being affected and 100% of justice that is being denied you as an individual.
I think this is wrong, and I sincerely hope we move off this obstructionism and have an up or down vote on these highly qualified individuals, whose talents, experience and integrity can easily be considered the ideal for what we want in judges.
We often talk about the ideal in our debates in the Senate. We hold up a picture of what things should look like and how things should be done in the hopes that someday, we can move our nation forward to the point where the ideal is, more often than not, reality. One of those ideals that has been presented is a world where our judges and our courts are more representative of America. Our courts have often been accused of being elitist. The Bush Administration has been working hard to change that image by making sure our judges are more diverse. By nominating people like Miguel Estrada, Carolyn Kuhl, Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, William Pryor, and Charles Pickering, President Bush has set an example of the ideal by selecting people from different backgrounds, with different styles, who share the same passion and enthusiasm for the law.
The list of judges that is before the Senate represents a group of candidates who are well educated, fully talented, and well qualified for the posts for which they have been nominated. Unfortunately, for some, this list also represents the unfairness of the system – a system which, in theory, guarantees each nominee a vote – but – in practice, can be used to deny a nominee a vote.
So here we are, well down the road, holding a list of candidates that still haven't received a vote. In spite of all their qualifications and the personal integrity they have shown throughout the process, these judges have been forced to wait as the Senate decides whether or not we can simply hold an up or down vote on them. Why? It's pretty clear to just about everyone. Because these are good nominees and in a fair and just world, they'd win the vote hands down. Therefore, the only way to avoid having these candidates confirmed is to deny them their constitutional right to an up or down vote.
What is most tragic about this situation is that these delays have not come without cost. These nominees aren't the only ones who are being denied their rights. Let's not forget the other victims in this situation who have been denied their right to a fair and impartial judicial process because there are not enough judges to hear all their cases. The real victims of these delays are not the nominees, or the Bush Administration, or even the Republican Party. No, the real victims are the people whose rights have been denied to accommodate some increased partisan bickering.
There is a saying, "Justice delayed is justice denied." We make people with very real needs and very real issues wait while we try to score a few points in the game of politics. We drag out their court costs, their attorney's fees, and delay their restitution and damage payments all because we want to get one up on the other party.
Mr. President, we have a crisis in our courts that we can solve today. I urge my colleagues to step up to the plate and become a part of the solution. I urge them not to accept the belief that justice for some is sufficient. I urge them to allow the Senate to conduct its constitutional duty and hold an up or down vote on these judges. If you don't agree with them, or feel they are not qualified, then vote against them. That is your prerogative and duty as a Senator. But do not continue to deny justice for the nominees or the courts any longer.