Sen. Charles Grassley

  • July 9, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    To hear Ranking Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tell it, the Senate is not the chamber where noncontroversial judicial and executive branch nominees languish.

    Yesterday when the Senate confirmed Gregory Phillips to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Grassley crowed in a press statement that “the Senate is processing the President’s nominees exceptionally fairly. President Obama is certainly being treated more fairly in the beginning of his second term than Senate Democrats treated President Bush in 2005. It is not clear to me how allowing more votes so far this year than President Bush got in an entire year amounts to ‘unprecedented delays and obstruction.’”

    Grassley has long argued that there is no obstruction of judicial nominees in the Senate, that vacancies on the federal bench have remained high because the president has been slow to put forth nominees and that one of the most powerful federal appeals court circuits is not all that busy, so it should be stripped of three judgeships. All of these assertions are beyond wobbly, they’re intentionally misleading. Grassley’s arguments for yanking judgeships from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit are especially obnoxious, aimed at trying to ensure that the D.C. Circuit remains tilted to the right for as long as possible.

    Despite the nominations that have been confirmed this year, there remain more than 80 vacancies on the federal bench, for a reason. Many of this year’s confirmations for example, should have happened in the previous Congress. Instead, the president’s judicial nominees have endured a significantly longer and divisive path to confirmation than Bush’s.

    When Phillips was confirmed for a Tenth Circuit judgeship, Sen. Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) shot back at Grassley’s pronouncements on the success of Obama’s judicial nominations, noting that confirmations occurring this year were long overdue, essentially highlighting the fact that the length of time from nomination to confirmation has expanded because of the delaying tactics of Senate Republicans.

  • May 21, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) a champion of obstructing President Obama’s nominations to the federal bench and some to executive branch positions, has focused special attention on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

    The D.C. Circuit is a significant court that hears high-profile national security concerns and cases regarding federal regulation, among other lofty matters. Patricia Wald, retired, served on the august Circuit court for 20 years, including five as its chief judge. She noted in a piece for The Washington Post, “Aside from the U.S. Supreme Court, it resolves more constitutional questions involving separation of powers and executive prerogatives than any court in the country.”

    The eleven-member court has four vacancies and President Obama has yet to fill one of them, because of Senate obstructionism. Senate Republicans twice scuttled Obama’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan to fill one of the Court’s vacancies. Some pundits say too much focus is placed on increasing obstructionism and grope for other excuses for the federal bench’s high vacancy rate. (See JudicialNominations.org for more on the vacancies.) But those pundits are simply uniformed or disingenuous. Republicans, led by the ringleader of obstruction, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) have stalled nominees to the Circuit courts and even some to the federal district courts. At The Dish, Andrew Sullivan has blasted the GOP for its rampant obstructionism, in reporting on a Party that has become increasingly hostile to governing.

    The D.C. Circuit with its four Republican appointees and three Democratic appointees has eagerly invalidated regulations to protect the environment, which is good for corporations, bad for humans, and earlier this year issued an opinion re-writing the president’s recess appointment power. Several of the D.C. Circuit's judges are also on senior status, which means they have much more flexibility in what cases they participate, and a greater chance exists that a three-judge panel will more often be made up of three Republican appointees. It’s a Court that caters to corporate interests, which is likely one, if not the compelling reason, Grassley and other Republicans are striving to keep Obama from placing judges on the Court.

    Grassley a part of the apparatus that blocked Halligan has not, so far, stood in the way of another nominee to the D.C. Circuit, Sri Srinivasan. But Grassley is pushing legislation that would cut the number of judges on the bench, signaling an effort to make sure the president has no more chances to shape the make-up of the D.C. Circuit. Grassley would move judgeships to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

    Part of Grassley’s push entails the canard that the D.C. Circuit has a light caseload. The Constitutional Accountability Center’s Judith E. Schaeffer in post for the group’s Text & History blog blasted Grassley’s effort as a “partisan sham.” She continued, adding that the Grassley effort amounted to “a ‘mass filibuster’ of President Obama’s future nominees to this critical circuit court. Senator Grassley’s bill is nothing more than a ploy to give cover to Senate Republicans who have no intention of letting a Democratic president fill those three vacancies on the D.C. Circuit.”

    The right-wing editorial board of The Wall Street Journal has also joined Grassley’s cause. In a May 20 editorial, it apes Grassley’s talking points, saying the D.C. Circuit “doesn’t need the judges. The D.C. Circuit is among the most underworked court in the federal system.”

  • April 19, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Senators beholden to the NRA successfully blocked compromise legislation containing a few new measures to promote gun safety, providing, as many quickly noted, another example of the sorry mess Republicans have made of the Senate, albeit with the help of some powerful Democrats.

    Early this year, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pushed serious filibuster reform aside to enter into a deal with Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) that was nonetheless trumpeted as an agreement that would curb the use of the filibuster, often requiring a supermajority to move nominations or legislation along.

    After the failed effort to pass modest measures on guns, Salon’s Alex Pareene took down some of the typical excuses for the Senate’s failure, and cut to the point: “The measure failed because of a bunch of asshole senators voted to filibuster it, and they were able to do so because Harry Reid made a deal with Mitch McConnell to preserve the filibuster a few months ago.”

    He concluded that the “mainstream political press” should start giving a more critical look at the “legitimacy of the 60-vote threshold ….”

    Today as authorities hunted for the second suspect of the Boston marathon bombings -- an immigrant of Chechen origin -- a few senators and right-wing pundits moved quickly to undermine consideration of immigration reform now before Congress.

    Elise Foley reporting for The Huffington Post noted that during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform, Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) quickly tied the bombings to immigration reform.

    “How can individuals evade authorities and plan such attacks on our soil?” he said. “How can we beef up security checks on people who wish to enter the U.S.? How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us?”

    Jillian Rayfield for Salon noted Grassley’s comments, but also provided a stream of Twitter comments from right-wing pundits, like Ann Coulter. Coulter tweeted early this morning: “It’s too bad Suspect # 1 won’t be able to be legalized by Marco Rubio, now,” referring to the comprehensive immigration bill introduced by eight senators, including Sen. Rubio (R-Fla.).

  • March 14, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Judith E. Schaeffer, Vice President of the Constitutional Accountability Center. This post is cross-posted from CAC’s Text & History Blog.

    Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on the nomination of Jane Kelly to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Nonetheless, even though Kelly is a highly qualified, uncontroversial nominee and her confirmation hearing on February 27 was a virtual love fest, no vote took place.

    Why not? Well, since the start of the Obama Administration, with only five exceptions,* Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have routinely invoked a procedural rule allowing them to insist that a scheduled vote on a nominee be held over – postponed until the Committee’s next meeting or until the following week, whichever is later. They invoked that rule again today, putting off a vote on Jane Kelly, another instance of a mindless abuse of a rule intended to provide more time when more time is actually needed, not a rule intended to put off votes on uncontroversial nominees purely for the sake of delay, which is how Republicans have been using it. The abuse of this rule is just one more example of the unprecedented obstruction to which Republicans have subjected President Obama’s judicial nominees for the past four years.

    Jane Kelly hails from Iowa, the home state of Senator Charles Grassley, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee. Apparently, however, not even senatorial courtesy to a well-qualified, uncontroversial, home state nominee could trump the relentless obstruction of the President’s judicial nominees. And so the damage to our Nation’s judiciary continues.

     *Thanks to my colleagues at People For the American Way for the statistics.

  • January 30, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) may believe the president has turned the Second Amendment on its head with a push for proposals to curb gun violence, but he’d do well to learn a bit more about the parameters of the amendment.

    A good place to start would be a succinct letter signed by some of the nation’s leading constitutional law scholars that notes the Supreme Court has acknowledged the “presumptive constitutionality of laws designed to prevent gun violence, including restrictions on who has access to firearms and what types of firearms that they may have ….”

    Grassley’s comments about the president’s call for new gun control measures came during today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. Grassley revealed his opposition to proposals to limit high-capacity ammunition magazines and suggested that violent video games are more responsible for mass shootings in the nation than easy access to military-style weapons.

    UCLA Law School Professor Adam Winkler and University of Chicago Law School Professor Geoffrey R. Stone crafted a statement on the constitutionality of certain measures to curb gun violence. As this blog has noted on more than one occasion the Second Amendment does not provide for an unlimited individual right to bear arms. The professors’ statement, signed by more than 45 law school professors, notes that as well. (Winkler is the adviser to the ACS UCLA law student chapter, and Stone is former chair of the ACS Board of Directors. Winkler is also author of the influential book, Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America.)

    Citing D.C. v. Heller, in which the high court found an individual right to own guns, the professors’ statement says in Heller Justice Antonin Scalia recognized that like other constitutional rights, “the Second Amendment is not absolute. The First Amendment, for example, provides that ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,’ but the Supreme Court has long and consistently held that some types of speech – for example, defamation, obscenity and threats – can be regulated; that some people – for example, public employees, members of the military, students and prisoners – are subject to greater restrictions on their speech than others; and that the government can reasonably regulate the time, place and manner of speech. As Justice Scalia explained in Heller, the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment are likewise subject to appropriate regulation in order to enhance public safety.”

    The statement, available here, goes onto to argue that proposals like universal background checks, regulation of high-capacity ammunition magazines and military-style assault weapons are “clearly consistent with the Second Amendment.” The professors, add that they have “no view on the effectiveness or desirability of the policies reflected in the various proposals, but we all agree that none infringes on the core right identified in by the Court in Heller.”