Last week, Senate Republicans filibustered Patricia Millett’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit as part of a broader effort to keep that court under Republican control. One of the senators who joined that filibuster was Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who pledged in 2005 that “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.”
Next week, nearly every Republican is expected to vote to filibuster President Obama’s other two nominees to the DC Circuit, one of whom is one of the most important women’s rights attorneys of the last two decades. Sen. Alexander, the man who pledged never to filibuster any judicial nominee, is also likely to join these filibusters.
Nor is Alexander alone in his willingness to do something that he once pledged never, ever to do. To the contrary, here are quotes from 11 other sitting senators, many of whom didn’t just oppose judicial filibusters, but outright labeled them unconstitutional:
- 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.”
- 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 of these statements were made when George W. Bush was president. But that should not matter because, as Sen. Cornyn said at the time, “we need to treat all nominees exactly the same, regardless of whether they’re nominated by a Democrat or a Republican president.”