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The Honorable Patrick Leahy
May 1, 2003
Opening Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy
I look forward to this being a productive work period in this Committee and in the Senate. In particular, I want to report that Chairman Hatch and I are continuing to work together and with other Senators on legislation concerning asbestos-related claims. We have been working since our first hearing last year through the hearing earlier this year and now in continuing discussions with insurers, corporations, labor representatives and legal representatives of asbestos victims to craft a fair proposal. I can report that we are hard at work and that I remain hopeful that we can reach a consensus on an effective legislative proposal. I know that a number of others on this Committee are interested and active on these important matters and look forward to working with you all as we proceed in what I want to be a truly bipartisan effort. I want to acknowledge the leadership of the Chairman and his hard work, as well as that of his staff, as we have proceeded to work through the recess.
In addition, I want to thank the Chairman for including on today's agenda S. Res. 75, which will set May 15 to honor the dedication and sacrifice of our public safety officers and their families. He and I and Senators Biden and Durbin and others are cosponsors of Senator Campbell's resolution. There will be a series of events honoring law enforcement that week culminating in the memorial program held on our Capitol grounds, which is organized by the Fraternal Order of Police and others.
Third, I want to report briefly on progress we are making this week on judicial nominations. We have already confirmed 120 of President Bush's judicial nominees, including some of the most divisive and controversial sent by any President. This week the Senate proceeded to a vote on the nomination of Jeffrey Sutton to the Sixth Circuit. He achieved the fewest number of favorable votes of any confirmation in almost 20 years with 52. He is the third controversial judicial nominee of this President against whom more than 40 negative votes were cast.
Our Senate leadership, both Republican and Democratic, are working hard to correct some of the problems that arose from some of the earlier hearings and actions of this Committee, as well. Just yesterday we were able to hold a hearing on the nomination of John Roberts to the District of Columbia Circuit. We are all working hard to complete Committee consideration of that nomination at the earliest opportunity. I am optimistic that our leadership is working out a procedure for Senate consideration of the nomination of Deborah Cook to the Sixth Circuit. Thus, a number of additional, controversial nominations are in the process of being considered and will be considered by the Senate in due course. In addition, of course there are the nominations of Judge Edward Prado and Judge Cecilia Altonaga on which we have been seeking Senate consideration for some time. I hope to see the Republican leadership schedule those matters for Senate action without additional delay.
This is not to say that there are no remaining concerns or problems. There are. Although we are hopeful of resolving problems experienced in the Committee earlier this year, additional problems are arising. I will first talk to the Chairman about them in an effort to resolve them, as well.
The administration has chosen confrontation with the Congress, with the Senate and with this Committee. We continue to proceed at least twice as productively as this Committee and the Senate did when President Clinton was in the White House working with Senator Hatch. With a modicum of cooperation we could achieve so much more. As it is, we have worked hard to repair the damage to the confirmation process and achieved significant results.
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