Sen. Orrin Hatch: Democrats Have Only Themselves to Blame for Rules Change I was here when Democrats started the confirmation wars with their treatment of Robert Bork. Just one year earlier, Senator Ted Kennedy had attempted to filibuster Justice William Rehnquist’s .....
PoliticalNews.me - Apr 08,2017 - Sen. Orrin Hatch: Democrats Have Only Themselves to Blame for Rules Change
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch
I’m not happy Senate Republicans had to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. I’m an institutionalist. I love the Senate and what it represents. I value debate and honor bipartisanship.
But let me be clear: We are here because of what Democrats have done over the last thirty years to poison the confirmation process. I speak from experience, as I’ve been here through all of it.
I was here when Democrats started the confirmation wars with their treatment of Robert Bork. Just one year earlier, Senator Ted Kennedy had attempted to filibuster Justice William Rehnquist’s elevation to Chief Justice, but those efforts were thwarted by a bipartisan cloture vote and a subsequent 65-33 confirmation vote. But in 1987, Senate Democrats twisted Judge Bork’s words, misrepresented his record and did their best to turn a good and decent man into some sort of monster.
Next came Clarence Thomas. Democrats learned from their Bork experience that fabrications and misrepresentations can bring down even the most qualified nominee. So they set to work on Thomas. Not satisfied with denigrating his professional qualifications, they set about to destroy him personally. To his great credit, Thomas endured and was confirmed by a slim 52-48 margin.
When Bill Clinton became President, Senate Republicans did not retaliate. Instead, we gave Judges Ginsburg and Breyer fair hearings and confirmed them overwhelmingly. Indeed, as Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I helped shepherd through both of President Clinton’s nominees.
And how did Senate Democrats respond to our fair treatment of President Clinton’s nominees? They filibustered President George W. Bush’s. For the first time in history, Senate Democrats successfully filibustered ten court of appeals nominees. These were nominees who would have been confirmed had they gotten an up-or-down vote. What Senate Democrats did during George W. Bush’s presidency changed the Senate — forever.
Next up was Samuel Alito. Like Rehnquist, Alito faced a partisan filibuster by Senate Democrats. And like Rehnquist, he overcame that filibuster. (The only other filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in our nation’s history was that of Abe Fortas, who faced a bipartisan filibuster due to his questionable ethics background when he was nominated to ascend from Associate Justice to Chief Justice.) Alito received fewer than 60 votes for confirmation, but he overcame the filibuster because 19 Senate Democrats voted to end debate on his nomination, even though only four ultimately voted for confirmation.
What happened when Barack Obama became president? Once again, after Senate Democrats had escalated the confirmation wars, Senate Republicans chose not to reciprocate. To be sure, many Republicans voted against Judges Sotomayor and Kagan, but no Republican attempted to filibuster their nominations.
And how did Democrats respond to our restraint? They eliminated the filibuster for lower-court nominees. The irony of this particular move is rich. It was the Democrats who, ten years earlier, for the first time in Senate history, began filibustering court