Thursday, July 24, 2014

Harris’ Rushed Nomination Heads to Floor Vote

The Senate will vote today to end debate on the nomination of Pamela Harris to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. This comes after the Senate Judiciary Committee rushed through the confirmation process and voted on July 17 to send Harris’ nomination to the full senate. As discussed in a previous post, Harris’ nomination raises serious concerns.

When the vote occurs today, 78 days will have passed since the Senate received Harris’ nomination and referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary. According to, President George W. Bush’s first-term circuit court nominees faced an average of 277 days from nomination to confirmation. Senate Democrats are rushing through a nominee who still has not given proper account for her previous statements.

Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed this concern in his opening statements at Harris’ hearing, “This committee continues to process nominees very quickly. For example, today’s nominee to the Fourth Circuit has been pending for only 47 days. . . . In fact, quite a few of President Bush’s circuit court nominees never received a hearing.”

Senator Grassley went on to tell the story of Bush nominee Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein was nominated to fill the very circuit court seat to which Harris is now nominated. However, Rosenstein’s nomination did not move forward. Especially given Harris’ statements on originalism, Senator Grassley said, “I will say that I have some concern with aspects of Professor Harris’ record.”

Also at Harris’ hearing, Texas Senator Ted Cruz stated his concern regarding her statements on judicial activism. Senator Cruz said,

“I’m troubled by some of the public comments you’ve made. In 2009, at an American Constitution Society panel, you described yourself as a ‘profoundly liberal person’ who sees the Constitution as a ‘profoundly progressive document.’ You went on to say, ‘I always feel unapologetically, you know, left to my own devices, my own best reading of the Constitution, it’s pretty close to where I am.’ . . . Those public comments raise some concern.”

The rushed confirmation process and lingering questions pose serious concerns about Harris’ nomination to the Fourth Circuit. By rushing Harris’ nomination, Senate Democrats have limited the information the Senate can use to make an informed decision. 

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