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U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch: Obstructing Clinton's Nominations

From a report on Senator Hatch's speech to the Christian Coalition, September, 2004

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) joined the chorus, blasting "unelected judges" and asserting that they "change the meaning of our laws."

But Hatch, in the course of an extended rant against Senate Democrats for holding up a handful of Bush judicial nominees, inadvertently strayed off message, becoming too frank in his long-winded analysis. He admitted that the Senate has approved 201 Bush judges so far, noting, "This is a huge number, the highest in history."

A moment later Hatch noted that President Ronald W. Reagan appointed 382 federal judges during his eight years in office and that many of them are still on the bench.

Curiously, Hatch did not address the obvious question: If Republican presidents have successfully placed so many judges, why is the federal judiciary so stacked with out-of-control liberals?

Hatch also did not mention that seven of the nine members of the Supreme Court were appointed by Re­publican presidents, nor did he point out that the federal appeals court judge who wrote the unpopular ruling striking down use of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools because of its religious content was put on the bench by President Richard M. Nixon.

Further straying off message, Hatch even went out of his way to praise the courts, telling the crowd, "The vast majority of federal judges do do what is right.. By and large, if it hadn't been for the federal judiciary, the Constitution would have been gone a long time ago. No question about it. Congress constantly passes unconstitutional legislation I shouldn't say constantly, but more than you ever thought possible."

Although unsure whether to love or hate judges, Hatch was certain of one thing: Bush must be re-elected. Much is at stake, he told the crowd. The next president, he noted, may appoint two, three or even four Supreme Court justices.

"The most important part of this election, in my view, is who's going to nominate those two to four justices on the Supreme Court," Hatch said. He added a moment later, "Get out and work hard in this election to make sure President Bush is re-elected."

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch was Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Under President Clinton. Under his leadership, the Republican controlled Senate Judiciary Committee blocked so many judicial nominations that there were more than one hundred vacancies in the U.S. federal courts when Clinton left office. The committee didn't send many of his nominations to the Senate floor for a vote. The last two years of Clinton's term, Senator Hatch (R-UT), didn't even present all of Clinton's nominations to the committee.

Now President Bush is twisting reality by claiming that Senate Democrats are obstructionist when, in fact, Democrats in the Senate have approved more than 168 nominations while filibustering only five. In addition, Clinton's nominations were far more moderate.

Since the 2002 elections when Senator Hatch resumed the role of Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he has been breaking procedural precedents and rules of decent behavior in his zeal to pack the federal courts with extreme ideologues. First he announced he was changing the way judges are nominated by removing the ability of Senators from the circuits involved to nominate federal judges (called blue slipping).

As of January 29, 2003 he had adopted a procedure to hasten the confirmation of Bush's candidates. Instead of separate hearings, he has lumped several nominees together to make it more difficult for opponents to point out their extremism. New York Times, 1/29/03.

Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way:
Breaking with a bipartisan agreement dating to the 1980s, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch has scheduled a single hearing to examine three controversial nominees to lifetime seats on the federal appeals courts, virtually guaranteeing that senators will not be able to conduct a thoughtful and thorough review of their records.


Last updated: November, 2004