Advice and Consentby Senator Chuck Grassley
Posted on 2013-06-12
GRASSLEY. I listened to my colleague from Wyoming. He states it
very well. I have come to the floor for roughly the same reason, but I
don't know how many times you have to say it, because I think basically
what the Senator from Wyoming was saying, and what I want to say is it
is very difficult to reach agreements in the Senate. But when you reach
an agreement, particularly only if it involves two Senators but
particularly if they are leaders of the Senate, a person's word is his
bond. That bond ought to be kept--as far as I know, always kept. At
least that has been my relationship with fellow Senators. You say you
are going to do
something and you continue that until it is successful. So here we are,
no Senator has not kept their word yet, but we hear this threat. So I
come to the floor to give my comments on it.
At the beginning of this Congress, the majority and minority leaders reached an agreement as to how to proceed with rules changes. An agreement was reached. We agreed to two rule changes: One change to the standing rules and one to the standing order. Senate Republicans gave up certain rights and protections in those rules changes. That was the first part of the agreement. In exchange for these rules changes, the majority leader gave his word to Republican Senators he would not utilize what is called around here and around this town the ``nuclear option'' and not use it during this Congress.
Let me review the exact wording of that agreement as it is recorded for history in the Congressional Record. This year, on January 24, 2013, the following exchange took place in the Senate. Senator McConnell stated: Finally, I would confirm with the majority leader that the Senate would not consider other resolutions relating to any standing order or rules in this Congress unless they went through the regular order process? The majority leader replied: This is correct. Any other resolution related to Senate procedure would be subject to a regular order process, including consideration by the rules committee.
In fact, the majority leader gave his word at the beginning of the last Congress as well. He stated: The minority leader and I have discussed this issue on numerous occasions. I know that there is a strong interest in rules changes among many in my caucus. In fact, I would support many of these changes through regular order. But I agree that the proper way to change Senate rules is through the procedures established in those rules and I will oppose any effort in this Congress or the next to change the Senate rules other than through regular order.
Let me just say when a Senator reaches an agreement and gives his word that he will stick to that agreement, that should mean something around here. As far as I am concerned, it means something all the time. I don't think I have been subject to entering an agreement with a colleague that hasn't been kept.
Let me emphasize something further. There was no contingency on that agreement. Republicans agreed to a change in the rules, and the majority leader gave his word he would not invoke the so-called nuclear option. That was the extent of the agreement, period. I trust the majority leader will keep his word and his commitment. If he pulls back on that commitment, it will irreparably damage the Senate.
Moreover, the notion there is now a crisis that demands another rules change is completely manufactured. The minority leader has spoken about the culture of intimidation. I am troubled it is finding its way into the Senate. For the record, in regard to why there is some talk around this institution of changing the rules--something to do with nominations and particularly judicial nominations not moving fast enough--I am in the middle of that as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. So far this year, we have confirmed 22 lower court nominees, with two more scheduled for this week. That is more than double the number of judges who were confirmed at this point during the previous President's second term--President Bush.
With the nominations this week, we have confirmed 195 of President Obama's nominees as lower court judges. We have defeated only two. That is a batting average of 99-plus percent. I don't know how much better we can get unless it is expected the Senate will not raise any questions about anybody appointed by any President to the judgeships of our country.
The claim we are obstructing nominees is plainly without foundation. I have cooperated with the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in moving forward on consensus nominees, and on the Senate floor there has been a consistent and steady progress on judicial nominations. Yet it seems as if the majority is intent on creating a false crisis in order to effect changes in longstanding Senate practices. They are now even threatening--can you believe this--to break the rules to change the rules. Again, I hope the majority leader keeps his word. We have certainly upheld our end of the bargain.
May I inquire of the Chair how many minutes are remaining for the minority in morning business? The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Republicans control 15 minutes.
Mr. GRASSLEY. Fifteen minutes more? The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is correct.
Mr. GRASSLEY. In regard to this whole issue about the Senate as an institution and where I said if this nuclear option holds it is going to destroy the Senate, I think it is very appropriate for us to remember the Senate is the only institution in our political branch of government where minority views are protected. In the House of Representatives, whether it is a Republican majority or a Democratic majority, as long as they stick together, they can do anything they want to and they can ignore the minority. But in the Senate, where it takes a supermajority of 60 to get something done, whether there is a Republican or Democratic minority, that minority is protected.
Today, where we have 54 Democrats and 46 Republicans, nothing is going to get done unless it is done in a bipartisan consensus way, and that is why it is so very important we do not destroy that aspect of the uniqueness of the Senate.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.