Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has released a statement acknowledging that he said he would never filibuster a judicial nominee, but that he never meant it that way.
Some Republicans have been taking a quote out of context from Senator Leahy from June 1998 about judicial nominations, replacing his actual words with an ellipse, then distributing it widely and misusing it.
Here is what Republicans keep quoting: "I have stated over and over again ... [ELLIPSE] that I would object and fight against any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported."
What the Republican talking points omit with their ellipse is the essential context of that quote. Senator Leahy's actual comment was made during floor discussion about AN ANONYMOUS REPUBLICAN HOLD on yet another of President Clinton's nominees. Here was his actual comment:
"I have stated over and over again on this floor that I would refuse to put an anonymous hold on any judge; that I would object and fight against any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported; that I felt the Senate should do its duty."
Elipsis or no, what is the "duty" that Leahy refers to? The only logical reading of Leahy's statement is that the Senate's "duty" would be to vote. A duty to not have "AN ANONYMOUS REPUBLICAN HOLD" doesn't make any sense.
But that's not where Leahy's statement stops. Leahy also recalls all manner of slights, real or perceived, suffered by Clinton nominees -- ignoring the fact that Clinton and Reagan both nominated a very similar number of judges in their terms.
The process of the anonymous holds with which Republicans prevented action on Clinton judicial nominees required NOT JUST A MAJORITY or a SUPERMAJORITY for the Senate to proceed to votes; Republicans were killing Clinton nominees by requiring UNANIMITY. And they were doing it ANONYMOUSLY, without accountability to the public. In the case of the Estrada nomination, Senate Democrats are using their leverage to PUBLICLY seek the Justice Department memoranda that the Judiciary Committee began requesting NEARLY A YEAR AGO, before proceeding to a vote.
Leahy's contention is not entirely accurate. When it comes to judicial nominees, the "hold" is what is referred to as a "blue slip." Basically, a blue slip is sent to the two home state senators as acknowledgement that they were "consulted" (part of the "advise" part of the "advice and consent" referred to in the Constitution) and that they approve of the nominee. If the blue slip is not returned, then the nomination dies. One may or may not agree with the process, but it is one that both parties have used for at least a decade. Leahy's statement makes it seem as though any senator can put an anonymous hold on any judicial nominee -- this obviously isn't true, because then we wouldn't be having this debate over a filibuster -- because it wouldn't be necessary.
As far as the Justice Dept. memoranda -- it's a red herring. Leahy continues to crow about it, despite the fact that every living former solicitor general say that the Senate has no right to them.
Leahy closes with the following statement:
Senate Democrats have raised serious and legitimate concerns about the Senate proceeding to a final vote, concerning the incompleteness of the record, the lack of responsive answers to basic questions and the refusal to turn over memos equivalent to memos provided to the Senate in other nominations.
What a bunch of malarkey. The "memos" Leahy wants aren't equivalent -- not even democratic ex-solicitor generals agree with that statement. As far as not getting "answers to basic questions" see the post immediately below this one.
The democrats, with Leahy and Chuck Schumer leading the way, have created a new standard for judicial nominees. Eventually they will regret it.