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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On Confirming President Biden’s Historic Judicial Nominees And Republican Obstruction Of Key Administration Officials

In addition to our legislative agenda, the Senate is also making good progress this week on confirming more of President Biden’s nominees, both to his administration and to the federal bench.

Today, we will vote to confirm two more of the President’s judicial nominees—and it is possible I will file cloture on more today. At the district level we will confirm Samantha Elliott to serve as a district judge for the District of New Hampshire. We will also vote on the confirmation of Jennifer Sung to sit as a Circuit Judge for the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Throughout her career, Ms. Sung has proven herself to be an exceptional and impartial adjudicator, a valiant advocate for working Americans—and I am confident she will be an excellent judge who adds to the personal and professional diversity of the Ninth Circuit.

For much of her time in private practice, Ms. Sung dedicated herself to representing workers in disputes against unscrupulous employers. The folks she’s fought for over her career haven’t been privileged individuals; on the contrary they’ve been everyday working Americans: low income workers, minority workers, largely underserved communities. Folks who just want a fair shake.  As a member of the Oregon Employment Relations Board—where she has served in a quasi-judicial role adjudicating disputes between workers and management—Ms. Sung has displayed immense skill striking a delicate balance between protecting the interests of working Americans while applying the law fairly, impartially, and without preconception. This balance is crucial for anyone under consideration for the bench.

And that's the point: we are having, of course, demographic diversity. Ms. Sung represents that as an Asian-American. But we're also having professional diversity, where people from different walks of life and different experiences serve in these very important courts, not just prosecutors and people from big law firms. So, this is a very, very important change that we are making in the bench.

This year we’ve made progress in adding that new level of diversity to the bench—but we still have a lot of work to do to make our courts reflect the diversity and richness of our democracy.

Earlier this morning, it was also my honor to come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to introduce Ali Nathan, nominated by President Biden—on my recommendation—to serve as Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Nathan is a remarkable and barrier-breaking nominee for the federal bench. A graduate of Cornell Law School, a clerk for both the Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court under Justice Stephens, and a member of President Obama’s White House Counsel and the office of the Solicitor General in New York, Judge Nathan’s resume is nothing short of impeccable.

And I can happily say that this will be the second time I have recommended Judge Nathan to serve on the bench: a decade ago, I urged President Obama to consider Ali Nathan to serve as District Court Judge in the Southern District of New York. I am glad President Obama listened, and after a decade of admirable service on the bench, it is clear that appointing her was the right decision. 

And one more important point: if confirmed to the Second Circuit, Judge Nathan would be only the second LGBTQ woman to serve as a federal appellate judge in the United States—another important step in tearing down the barriers in the halls of justice.

If confirmed I am confident that Judge Nathan will serve with distinction and excellence on the Second Circuit.

Thanks to Senate Democrats, President Biden has more total circuit and district court nominees confirmed before December 15 of his first year than any president since Ronald Reagan.

By the end of the day, the tally will stand at thirty one new judges confirmed in 2021.

Let me repeat that: by the end of today, the Senate will have confirmed thirty one judges in President Biden’s first year—20 to the district court, and 11 to serve as appellate judges on the federal circuit.

Four years ago, under former President Donald Trump, Republicans lacked any robust legislative agenda and focused almost entirely on rubber-stamping a parade of far-right, unqualified, and highly ideological nominations to the federal bench.

This year we’re administering the antidote: all year long the Democratic Majority has begun rebalancing our courts with mainstream, highly qualified, and diverse judges—historically diverse both in their profession and personhood. Over half of the new judges are women, over half are people of color—and all of them are immensely qualified by virtue of their skills, their experience, and the unique perspectives they bring to the federal bench. We’re going to continue working as much as we can for the rest of this year to confirm more judges. And you can be sure, that we will push even harder in 2022.

The Senate has a responsibility in this chamber to confirm President Biden’s nominees to his administration.

Every president, and this one too, deserves to have his Administration filled, and for years both sides have worked together when possible.

But this year we are seeing a new low from Senate Republicans: because of the cynical blockade of a handful of members on the other side, the Senate now faces a backlog of at least 150 nominees, many whom would have sailed through this chamber in years past.

We have now had to file cloture on twice as many nominees at this point in President Biden’s Administration than Republicans had to do under President Trump. Let’s be clear about the nominees at issue: we aren’t talking about partisan firebrands or candidates that come out of left-field. The bulk of these men and women are uncontroversial, by-the-book, professional public servants.  Many of these nominees would work on issues like supply chains and national security which our Republican colleagues say they want to address. But now those lives—and the lives of their families—have been thrown in total limbo, all because a handful of Republicans have hijacked the rules of the Senate to slow the confirmation process to a glacial pace, against precedent and common sense.

We have been working over the past day to secure a lift on many of these holds. I want to echo what Senator Menendez has made clear: if the Senator from Texas offers a proposal that does not include lifting all State, Treasury, and USAID nominees holds, we cannot come to an agreement.  

Democrats are working to clear as much of the backlog as possible by consent. If we cannot make much progress, we may need to stay and hold votes on nominees this weekend and next week until we do.