Walter Rhett

GOP Senators Call Judicial Filibuster Unconstitutional

In National Affairs, National Government on December 9, 2011 at 12:10 am

14 GOP Senators Slam Senate GOP’s ‘Unconstitutional’ Filibuster*

By Ian Millhiser  on Dec 7, 2011 at 11:00 am
“This article was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) Discuss Their Understanding Of The Constitution

Yesterday, Senate Republicans voted nearly unanimously to block Caitlan Halligan’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Only Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) broke party linesto join the 54-45 vote to allow Halligan to move forward — leaving Halligan six votes short of what she needed to break the GOP filibuster.


The Senate GOP’s decision to filibuster Halligan earned wide rebukes from Senate Republicans*, many of whom slammed this decision to filibuster a judicial nominee as unconstitutional:

  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “I would never filibuster any President’s judicial nominee, period. I  might vote against them, but I will always see they came to a vote.”
  • Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA):“Every judge nominated by this president or any president deserves an   up-or-down vote. It’s the responsibility of the Senate. The Constitution   requires it.”
  • Tom Coburn (R-OK): “If you look at the Constitution, it says the president is to nominate  these people, and the Senate is to advise and consent.  That means you  got to have a vote if they come out of committee.  And that happened for  200 years.”
  • John Cornyn (R-TX): “We have a Democratic leader defeated, in part, as I said, because I  believe he was identified with this obstructionist practice, this  unconstitutional use of the filibuster to deny the president his  judicial nominations.
  • Mike Crapo (R-ID): “Until this Congress, not one of the President’s nominees has been  successfully filibustered in the Senate of the United States because of  the understanding of the fact that the Constitution gives the President  the right to a vote.”
  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “I  think filibustering judges will destroy the judiciary over time. I think  it’s unconstitutional”
  • Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of  judges from 51 to 60, and that’s essentially what we’d be doing if the  Democrats were going to filibuster.”
  • Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX): “[T]he Constitution envisions a 51-vote  majority for judgeships…. [Filibustering judges] amend[s] the  Constitution without going through the proper processes…. We have a  majority rule that is the tradition of the Senate with judges. It is the  constitutional requirement.”
  • Jon Kyl (R-AZ): “The  President was elected fair and square. He has the right to submit judicial  nominees and it is the Senate’s obligation under the Constitution to act  on those nominees.”
  • Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “The Constitution of the United States is at stake.  Article II, Section 2  clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates  judges.  The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent.  But my  Democratic colleagues want to change the rules.  They want to  reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for  confirmation.”
  • Jeff Sessions (R- AL): “[The Constitution] says the Senate shall advise and consent on treaties by a  two-thirds vote, and simply ‘shall advise and consent’ on  nominations…. I think there is no doubt the Founders understood that to  mean … confirmation of a judicial nomination requires only a simple  majority vote.”
  • Richard Shelby (R-AL):“Why not  allow the President to do his job of selecting judicial nominees and let us do  our job in confirming or denying them? Principles of fairness call for it and the Constitution requires it.”
  • John Thune (SD): Filibustering judicial nominees “is contrary to our Constitution ….  It was the Founders’ intention that the Senate dispose of them with a simple majority vote.”

*All quotes are taken from when George W. Bush was president. But, of course, that doesn’t matter because — in the words of Cornyn — “we need to treat all nominees exactly the same, regardless of whether they’re nominated by a Democrat or a Republican president.”**

**Cornyn’s statement was also made when George W. Bush was president.

  1. I saw this coming. It was a mistake then and is a mistake now. Even Bork got a vote.

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