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Patrick L.
Democrat VT

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  • Executive Session

    by Senator Patrick J. Leahy

    Posted on 2015-02-12

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    LEAHY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, the Senate will vote later today on the confirmation of Dr. Ashton Carter to fill a critically important Cabinet position, that of Secretary of Defense. I think we all know Dr. Carter is a dedicated and distinguished public servant. He has actually been confirmed twice, unanimously, to two senior positions at the Pentagon. He has been recognized as a four-time recipient of the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal, and he has been awarded the Defense Intelligence Medal. I have no doubt the vote today in support of Dr. Carter will be overwhelmingly favorable.

    The Defense Department faces important, timely, and difficult decisions in the coming months and years. They have to learn how best to balance what we know are our fiscal constraints with not only existing but emerging international challenges. Dr. Carter served as the day-to-day financial officer of the Pentagon, so he is one of the few people who understand the complexities of the Pentagon's budget. I believe that Dr. Carter will build upon the fine work of Secretary Hagel to chart a path toward fiscal accountability while maintaining the kind of military capabilities we need to face current global threats.

    Dr. Carter is receiving his confirmation vote just over a week after he testified before the Armed Services Committee and two days after his nomination was reported to the full Senate, and that swift action is commendable. But I want to contrast how his nomination was handled as compared to Loretta Lynch's for Attorney General.

    Lynch Nomination It is a disappointment that contrary to what was done for Dr. Carter, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee chose to hold over for another two weeks another critical nomination, that of Loretta Lynch to be the Attorney General of the United States, the Nation's chief law enforcement officer.

    Loretta Lynch is a renowned prosecutor, twice unanimously confirmed by the Senate. She has worked to put criminals behind bars for such crimes as terrorism and fraud. Some Members of this body said these terrorists should be held in Guantanamo because we, the most powerful nation on earth, should be afraid to try them in our Federal courts-- the best court system in the world. She showed a lot more courage. She said, we will try these terrorists in our Federal courts, and we will show the rest of the world America is not afraid--and it worked. She got convictions. Now, the President announced the nomination of Ms. Lynch nearly one hundred days ago. It has been more than two weeks since she testified before the Judiciary Committee. In addition to nearly eight hours of live testimony, she has responded to more than 600 written questions. Her nomination has been pending for longer than any modern Attorney General nominee.

    I contrast this to another nominee. In 2007, Democrats, who had been in the minority, took back over control of the Senate. President Bush had had an Attorney General, a man who, by just about any objective standard, had been a disaster. He was removed, and President Bush nominated Michael Mukasey to serve as Attorney General. It took only 53 days from the time his nomination was announced to his confirmation. That included doing all of the background checks and having the hearings. And then, after Mr. Mukasey's hearing, of course under our rules we could have held his nomination over in Committee, but I asked the Committee not to and we did not. While I ultimately voted against Mr. Mukasey because of his responses relating to questions on torture, as Chairman I made sure to have the Committee act quickly on him. In fact, I held a special markup session in order for the Committee to be able to report his nomination as soon as possible, because the President should have an Attorney General--and he was confirmed by the Senate two days later. Now, Republicans should extend the same courtesy with respect to Ms. Lynch's nomination to serve as the Nation's top law enforcement officer.

    I look forward to working with Dr. Carter. I am not suggesting we should hold him up because they are holding her up. Of course not. He should be confirmed, as she should be confirmed, and [[Page S959]] I look forward to working with Dr. Carter on issues of great importance to Vermonters and to the Nation, particularly concerning our continued diplomatic efforts to end Iran's nuclear program, in halting and reversing the proliferation of landmines around the world, in responsibly managing the Pentagon, and in supporting our servicemembers at home and abroad.

    And I look forward to working with Loretta Lynch when the Senate ultimately confirms her nomination, as it will. I urge the Republican Leader to serve the national interest by scheduling a confirmation vote on her nomination as soon as she is reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 26. She has already waited far longer for a confirmation vote than any Attorney General in modern history, and she should be confirmed just as Dr. Carter is going to be.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.

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