September 13, 2016 05:48 PM

Cotton objects to confirming US Court of Federal Claims nominations

Senator Coons asked unanimous consent that the Senate take up and confirm the following nominations:

Executive Calendar #27 Nancy B. Firestone - to be a Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims for a term of fifteen years

Executive Calendar #28 Thomas L. Halkowski - to be a Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims for a term of fifteen years

Executive Calendar #29 Patricia M. McCarthy - to be a Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims for a term of fifteen years

Executive Calendar #30 Jeri Kaylene Somers -  to be a Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims for a term of fifteen years

Executive Calendar #31 Armando Omar Bonilla - to be a Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims for a term of fifteen years

Senator Cotton objected.

Unofficial transcript of the exchange below:

{17:36:47 NSP} (MR. COONS) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } MR. COONS: I COME TO THE FLOOR TODAY TO ASK UNANIMOUS CONSENT THAT THE SENATE PROCEED TO EXECUTIVE SESSION TO CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING FOUR -- FIVE NOMINATIONS, CALENDAR NUMBER 27, CALENDAR NUMBER 28, CALENDAR NUMBER 29, CALENDAR NUMBER 30, AND CALENDAR NUMBER 31. AND THAT THE SENATE PROCEED TO VOTE WITHOUT INTERVENING ACTION OR DEBATE ON THE NOMINATIONS, THE MOTIONS TO RECONSIDER BE CONSIDERED MADE AND LAID ON THE TABLE, WITH NO INTERVENING ACTION OR DEBATE, THAT NO FURTHER MOTIONS BE IN ORDER TO THE NOMINATIONS AND ANY STATEMENTED BE PRINTED IN THE RECORD, THE PRESIDENT BEING NOTIFIED AND THE SENATE THEN RESUME LEGISLATIVE SESSION.

[ram]{17:37:17 NSP} (THE PRESIDING OFFICER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } THE PRESIDING OFFICER: IS THERE OBJECTION? [ram]{17:37:18 NSP} (MR. COTTON) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } MR. COTTON: MR. PRESIDENT?

[ram]{17:37:20 NSP} (THE PRESIDING OFFICER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } THE PRESIDING OFFICER: THE SENATOR FROM ARKANSAS.

[ram]{17:37:22 NSP} (MR. COTTON) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } MR. COTTON: RESERVING THE RIGHT TO OBJECT -- BECAUSE I HAVE OBJECTED TO THE CONFIRMATION OF THESE JUDGES BEFORE AND THE REASON STILL STANDS. THERE'S LITTLE EVIDENCE THAT THE COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS NEEDS THEM OF ACCORDING TO THE LATEST PUBLIC STATISTICS IT THE COURT'S CASELOAD IS DOWN 49% FROM 2011 AND 66% IF YOU GO BACK TO 2007. I UNDERSTAND THAT SOME SAY THESE NUMBERS ARE SKEWED BY A FLOOD OF RELATIVELY SIMPLE CASES RELATED TO VACCINE CLAIMS THAT HAS BEGUN TO EBB IN RECENT YEARS. FEIGN WE REMOVE THOSE VACCINE CLAIMS FROM THE [ram]{17:37:52} (MR. COTTON) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } STATISTICS, THE COURT'S CASELOAD HAS STILL DROPPED. THE NUMBER OF NON-VACCINE CASES DPROPPED 1,427 IN 2014 TO 1,404 IN 20156789 THAT LATEST NUMBER IS 010% LOWER THAN IT WAS IN 2013, AND 39% LOWER THAN IT WAS IN 2507. I RESPECTFULLY REMIND MY COLLEAGUES THAT THE 16 ACTIVE JUDGES AUTHORIZED IN STATUTE FOR THE COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS IS NOT A MINIMUM NUMBER. IT IS A MAXIMUM NUMBER. THAT NUMBER WAS STET IN 1982. AN INCREASE IN [ram]{17:38:25} (MR. COTTON) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } THE SIX JUDGES THAT WERE PREVIOUSLY AUTHORIZED. PERHAPS IT'S TIME TO REVISIT THAT NUMBER AGAIN 34 YEARS LATER. I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO NOTE THAT AN AUXILIARY OF SENIOR NONACTIVE YUDGES IS RIEBL FOR THE COURT TO HEAR CASE. THESE SENIOR JUDGES RECEIVE A FULL SALARY WHETHER OR NOT THEY HEAR CASES ON THE CONDITION THAT THEY BE AVAILABLE TO WORK WHEN CALLED. THEY ARE THE MOST EXPERIENCED JUDGES WE HAVE FOR THESE TYPES OF CASES AND I AM HEARTENED KNOW THAT A NUMBER OF THEM HAVE BEEN RECALLED TO ASSIST THE COURT SINCE I CALLED FOR THAT ACTION LAST YEAR. THAT'S MUCH BETTER USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS THAN CONFIRMING [ram]{17:38:59} (MR. COTTON) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } EXTRA JUDGES WHO WILL RECEIVE ADDITIONAL FULL-TIME SALARIES, OFFICE SPACE, AND STAFF. I ALSO NOTE THAT MY OFFICE HAS DISCUSSED THE CASELOAD. COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS, THE WHITE HOUSE NUMBERS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR. IN GOOD FAITH MY OFFICE TOLD THE WHITE HOUSE IF IT PROVIDED A STATISTIC CAL CASE SHOWING A NEED FOR MORE ACTIVE JUDGES I WOULD CONSIDER LIFTING SOME OF OF THE HOLDS. ON THURSDAY LAST WEEK THE WHITE HOUSE PROVIDED SOME STATISTICS DRAWN FROM UNPUBLISHED CASELOAD DATA FOR 20916 FISCAL YEAR YEAR. THE DATA WILL -- WERE NOT [ram]{17:39:31} (MR. COTTON) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } COMPREHENSIVE OR BROKEN DOWN IN A GRAN UALREADY A FASHION. THEY DID NOT SHOW THERE IS A CLEAR CASE ADDING MORE JUDGES. ACCORDING TO THE WHITE HOUSE STATISTICS, THE NUMBER OF NON-VACCINE CASES FILED THIS YEAR IS DOWN. THE NUMBER OF COMPLICATED CONTRACT BID PROTESTS FILED HAS DROPPED. AND THE TOTAL NUMBER OF PENDING ENGINE VACCINE CASES HAS REMAINED LARGELY FLAT. THERE WILL BE MORE DISCUSSION BETWEEN MY OFFICE ANGZ THE WHITE HOUSE ABOUT THIS DATA BUT AT THIS TIME I HAVE YET TO RECEIVE COMPELLING DATA SHOWING A JUDICIAL EMERGENCY ON THE COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS. I'VE FOCUSED SO FAR ON THE [ram]{17:40:05} (MR. COTTON) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } OBSTACLES TO CLOSELY GUARD THE USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS ON JUDGES WE MAY NOT NEED BUT I WOULD BE REMISS IF I DID NOT HIGHLIGHT THE UNIQUE ROLE AND VAST POWER OF THE COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS. IT HAS NATIONWIDE JURISDICTION OVER ALL CLAIMS FOR MONEY DAMAGES AGAINST THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, FROM TAPS TAX DISPUTES TO GOVERNMENT CONTRACT PROTESTS, TO EMINENT DOMAIN TAKINGS. THIS COURT'S JURISDICTION ISN'T LIMITED TO THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA OR TO PRIVATE LITIGANTS BUT DEALS WITH GOVERNMENT ABUSES OF THE RIGHTS OF ARC YARNTION AND CITIZENS OF [ram]{17:40:36} (MR. COTTON) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } EVERY STATE -- OF ARKANSASIANS AND CITIZENS OF EVERY DISAIT IN THE UNION. THIS IS A SERIOUS COURT. THE SENATE SHOULD BE SERIOUS. THE PRESIDENT'S NOMINATIONS SHOULD NOT BE RUBBER-STAMPED. WE NEED TO LOOK HARD AT THE WORKLOAD OF THE COURT. RIGHT NOW THOSE DEMANDS APPEAR TO BE ADEQUATELY MET. I MUST THEREFORE OBJECT.

[ram]{17:41:00 NSP} (THE PRESIDING OFFICER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } THE PRESIDING OFFICER: OBJECTION IS HEARD.

[ram]{17:41:05 NSP} (MR. COONS) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } MR. COONS: MR. PRESIDENT, IF I MIGHT, ON THE QUESTION OF THE COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS, IT TODAY CURRENTLY HAS JUST TEN ACTIVE JUDGES, ALTHOUGH AUTHORIZED TO HAVE 16. AND THE FIVE NOMINEES WHOM I HAVE BROUGHT TO THE FLOOR TODD AND ASKED FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT FOR THEM TO PROCEED, THESE FIVE NOMINEES WERE FIRST NOMINATED IN APRIL OR MAY OF 2014 AND HAVE WAITED POUR THAN TWO YEARS FOR THEIR CONVERSATION HERE BY THE SENATE. NO ONE HAS RAISED AN OBJECTION TO THEIR QUKSES AND EACH OF THEM HAS TWICE [ram]{17:41:36} (MR. COONS) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } NOW UNANIMOUSLY BEEN APPROVED BY THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE WITHOUT CONCERNS BEING RAISED OR ADVANCED ABOUT EITHER THEIR QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE NEEDS TO FILL THESE JUDICIAL VACANCIES. WITH FEWER ACTIVE JUDGES, CASES HAVE PILED UP AT THE COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS, WHICH IS OFTEN CALLED THE PEOPLE'S COURT FOR ITS ROLE IN HEARING CASES BROUGHT BY CITIZENS AND BUSINESSES AGAINST THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. FROM 2012 TO 2015 THE NUMBER OF PENDING GENERAL JURISDICTION CASES PER ACTIVE JUDGE HAS NEARLY DOUBLED JUMPING FROM 20E7 ABOUT 130? JUST THREE YEARS. THE COURT HAS ALSO SEEN AN INCREASE IN BID [ram]{17:42:09} (MR. COONS) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } PROTEST CASES, SONL OF THE MOST COMPLEX AND RESOURCE-INTENSIVE CASES HEARD BY THIS COURT. AND IN MY VIEW, THESE DELAYS HARM THE CITIZENS AND BUSINESSES THAT ARE WAITING TO HAVE THEIR CASES DECIDED. DELAYS ALSO CAN COME AS SIGNIFICANT COST TO THE GOVERNMENT, WHICH PAYS A GREATER INTEREST ONCE JUDGMENTS ARE FINE AOLLY RENDERED. AS MY COLLEAGUE HAS COMMENTED, IT IS TRUE THAT SENIOR STATUS JUDGES ARE HELPING THIS OVERBURDENED COURT BUT THEIR EFFORTS ARE I WANT WILLED BY STATUTE. THEY CANNOT WORK MORE THAN 90 DAYS PER YEAR. LAST I DO NOT REMEMBER I CALLED FOR THE SAME FIVE JUDGES TO BE CONFIRMED BY UNANIMOUS [ram]{17:42:42} (MR. COONS) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } CONSENT. LAST YEAR ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES ALSO OBJECTED AND ARGUED THAT THE NUMBER PENDING CASES HAS ACTUALLY DECREASED AND ADDITIONAL JUDGES ARE ARE NOT NEEDED. THIS IS ONLY THE CASE IF ONE COUNTS CASES REFERRED TO SPECIAL MASTERS. SPECIAL MASTERINGS HAVE SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED THE CASELOAD IN RECENT YEARS BUT THESE CASES ARE NOT SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTORS TO THE WORKLOAD OF THE COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS AND ITS JUDGES. WE HAVE RECEIVED LETTERS FROM THE CHIEF JUDGE OF THE FEDERAL COURT OF CLAIMS AND THE PAST PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. COURT OF FEDERAL [ram]{17:43:13} (MR. COONS) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } CLAIMS BAR ASSOCIATION URGING OUR SWIFT ACTION ON THESE NOMINEES. THE COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS IS IN NEED OF THE SERVICE OF THESE CANDIDATES WHOSE EXPERIENCE AND QUALIFICATIONS ARE BEYOND QUESTION. IF I MIGHT, MR. PRESIDENT, I WANT TO BRIEFLY HIGHLIGHT A FEW OF THESE NOMINEES AND THEIR BACKGROUND. ONE OF THE NOMINEES IS JERRY SUMMERS WHO SPENT THEIR CAREER IN SERVICE TO OUR NATION, A DECADE IN THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AS A FEDERAL PROSECUTOR AND A CIVIL DIVISION FRILL ATTORNEY BUT AN EXTENSIVE BACKGROUND OF MILITARY SERVICE. SHE RE250EURD FROM THE AIR FORCE RESERVES HAVING SPENT TWO DECADES IN THE MILITARY [ram]{17:43:46} (MR. COONS) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } SERVING AS A JUDGE ADVOCATE. ANOTHER OF THE PENDING NOMINEES, ARMANDO BONILLA SPENT TWO DECADES IN THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, HIRED OUT OF LAW SCHOOL DIRECTLY INTO THE D.O.J.'S PROGRAM AND HAS RISEN TO BECOME THE ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL IN THE DEPARTMENT. HE WROOB THE FIRST HISPANIC JUDGE TO HOLD A SEAT ON THIS COURT AND WAS STRONGLY ENDORSED. LAST, THOMAS HALKOWSKI, A RESPECTED PARTNER AT ONE OF THE PREEMINENT LAW FIRMS IN THE NATION AND HE PRACTICES IN WILMINGTON, DELAWARE. HE'S FORMER [ram]{17:44:27} (MR. COONS) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ATTORNEY WITH EIGHT YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DIVISION AND WOULD BRING THE COURT A WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE. ALL FIVE OF THESE PENDING NOMINEES TO THE COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS ARE QUALIFIED CANDIDATES WHO HAVE LANGUISHED FOR TWO YEARS ON THE SENATE CALENDAR. THEY REPRESENT PART OF A PATTERN OF OBSTRUCTION EXTENDING ALL THE WAY UP TO OUR COUNTRY'S HIGHEST COURTER, THE SUPREME COURT. I BELIEVE IT IS TIME WE COME TOGETHER IN A BIPARTISAN FASHION TO DO OUR JOB, CONFIRM THESE FIVE NOMINEES TO THESE JUDICIAL VACANCIES AND ALLOW THEM TO GET TO WORK [ram]{17:44:59} (MR. COONS) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT } SERVING OUR NATION ON THE COURT OF FEDERAL CLAIMS. THANK YOU, MR. PRESIDENT.