Leahy Blasts Republicans For Stalled Nominees
By Andrew Ramonas | December 15, 2021 9:30 pm

In his second appeal within a week, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) took to the Senate floor today to excoriate Republicans for blocking Justice Department and judicial nominees.

“No more do they talk about each nominee being entitled to an up-or-down vote,” Leahy said, recalling Republican criticism of Democrats who objected to GOP nominees during the Bush administration. “That position is abandoned and forgotten.  Instead, they now seek to filibuster and delay judicial nominations.”

A dozen Justice Department executive nominations and another 12 district and circuit court nominees are awaiting Senate action. The Judiciary panel, which is chaired by Leahy, reported some of the nominees out of committee months ago.

The list of stranded nominees includes Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel. Her nomination has been pending on the Senate calendar for 271 days - the longest of any administration executive branch nominee.

“We did not treat President Bush’s first nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel the same way,” Leahy said, according to his statement. ”We confirmed Jay Bybee to that post only 49 days after he was nominated by President Bush, and only five days after his nomination was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Several Senate Republicans, joined by Democratic Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), have raised concerns about Johnsen’s vocal opposition to the Bush administration’s national security policies and her past work for an abortion rights group.

As for judicial nominations, Leahy said the Senate has “had to waste weeks seeking time agreements in order to consider nominations that were then confirmed unanimously.”

According to Leahy, the Senate confirmed more district and circuit court nominees during the first year of the George W. Bush administration than it has approved thus far during the Barack Obama presidency.

The Senate confirmed almost 30 district and circuit court nominees during the first year of the Bush administration. The chamber has only approved 10 district and circuit court judges since Obama took office in January, Leahy said.

“Absent cooperation to confirm nominations, this Congress will be recorded in history as one of the least productive in the confirmation of judicial nominations,” Leahy said. “I hope the New Year will bring a renewed spirit of cooperation.”

Leahy added that Obama has reached out to Republican home state senators on his judicial nominees. But he said Republican leaders in the Senate haven’t returned the favor.

“When President Bush worked with Senators across the aisle, I praised him and expedited consideration of his nominees,” the Vermont Democrat said. “When President Obama reaches across the aisle, the Senate Republican leadership delays and obstructs his qualified nominees.”

A Republican aide told Main Justice that Democrats have enough votes to bring the nominees up for consideration at any time. The aide added nominees are moving through the Senate Judiciary Committee in a “timely and responsible matter.”

The Judiciary chairman also highlighted the nominations of Mary L. Smith for the Tax Division and Christopher Schroeder for the Office of Legal Policy.

He said it “puzzles” him that the Senate hasn’t moved on Schroeder, a former Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the Clinton administration, will be in charge of judicial nominations and legal policy if confirmed to run the OLP.

The Duke law professor was reported out of committee without dissent on a voice vote. A spokesperson for Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans declined to comment on the Schroeder holdup. Schroeder, like Johnsen, was a critic of the Bush-era national security and legal policies. Read his June 2008 testimony before Congress about Guantanamo Bay interrogation policies here.

Republicans, however, have voiced concerns about Smith, who did not receive a single Republican vote in committee. They said Smith, a Chicago lawyer who served in the Clinton White House counsel’s office, lacked tax law experience.

Below is a chart from Leahy’s office listing judicial nominees who’ve received Senate Judiciary Committee approval but haven’t been before the full Senate for a confirmation vote:

Judicial Nominations Pending On Executive Calendar


Days Since Nomination

Pending On Calendar

Beverly Baldwin Martin, 11th Circuit

179 days

96 days

Joseph A. Greenaway, 3rd Circuit

179 days

76 days

Edward Milton Chen, North. Dist., Calif.

131 days

61 days

Dolly Gee, Cen. Dist., Calif.

131 days

61 days

Richard Seeborg, North. Dist., Calif.

131 days

61 days

Barbara Milano Keenan, 4th Circuit

92 days

47 days

Jane Branstetter Stranch, 6th Circuit

131 days

26 days

Thomas I. Vanaskie, 3rd Circuit

131 days

12 days

Louis B. Butler, Jr., West. Dist., Wis.

76 days

12 days

Denny Chin, 2nd Circuit

70 days

5 days

Rosanna M. Peterson, East. Dist. Wash.

63 days

5 days

William M. Conley, West. Dist. Wis.

47 days

5 days

Here’s a complete list of the DOJ nominees who have received Senate Judiciary Committee approval, but haven’t won Senate confirmation yet:

-Dawn Johnsen, who was reported out of committee on March 19, for Office of Legal Counsel Assistant Attorney General.

-Mary L. Smith, who was reported out of the committee on June 11, Tax Division Assistant Attorney General.

-Christopher Schroeder, who was reported out of committee on July 28, for Office of Legal Policy Assistant Attorney General.

-Susan Carbon, who was reported out of committee on Dec. 3, for Violence Against Women Office director.

-John Laub, who was reported out of committee on Dec. 3, for National Institute of Justice director.

-Sanford Coats, who was reported out of committee on Dec. 3, for Western District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney.

-Beth Phillips, who was reported out of committee on Dec. 3, for Western District of Missouri U.S. Attorney.

-Stephen James Smith, who was reported out of committee on Dec. 3, for Southern District of Georgia U.S. Marshal.

-Sharon Lubinski, who was reported out of committee on Dec. 3, for Minnesota U.S. Marshal.

-Richard Callahan, who was reported out of committee on Dec. 10, for Eastern District of Missouri U.S. Attorney.

-John Kammerzell, who was reported out of committee on Dec. 10, for Colorado U.S. Marshal.

-John Gibbons, who was reported out of committee on Dec. 10, for Massachusetts U.S. Marshal.



  1. [...] of this is pretty damning. Dawn Johnsen’s nomination had languished, twisting in the wind, for 280 days as of the time her nomination was killed by Harry Reid, far longer than any other Obama nominee. [...]

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The Senate Democratic leader describes the Republicans' refusal to hold hearings on President Obama's eventual Supreme Court nominee "historically unbelievable and historically unprecedented."

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