Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/06/2004 03:20 PM House JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 33 - CONGRESSIONAL VOTE ON JUDICIAL NOMINATION Number 0741 CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the final order of business would be CS FOR SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 33(STA), Urging our United States Senators to work to allow a timely vote on the floor on all judicial nominations. Number 0665 BRIAN HOVE, Staff to Senator Ralph Seekins, Alaska State Legislature, presented SJR 33 on behalf of the Senate Judiciary Standing Committee, sponsor by request, which is chaired by Senator Seekins. He said that SJR 33 urges U.S. Senators to work towards allowing a timely vote on all judicial nominations, and requests that the U.S. Senate move forward with President George w. Bush's judicial nominations. Mr. Hove went on to say: Our U.S. Constitution provides the President with the power to nominate qualified candidates for federal judicial positions with the consent of the [U.S.] Senate, but many of these nominations are currently being blocked through parliamentary delay tactics carried out by a minority of Senators. This has created needless hardship within the judiciary branch of our government. In fact, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts has classified 24 judgeships as judicial emergencies. Many of President Bush's nominees are intended to fill these seats. Senate Joint Resolution 33 requests [that] the U.S. Senate move forward with these nominations, thus allowing the judicial branch to function as the [U.S.] Constitution intended. Therein ends my testimony. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG characterized SJR 33 as a partisan resolution that speaks to a problem which has also occurred in previous administrations. He said: Now, if you want to take a partisan swipe at the Democrats, you can do it, but you can't expect my support any more than you could if I took a partisan swipe at the Republicans. Now, my question to you, on behalf of your Senator, is, [do] you want to clean this up and make it a nonpartisan statement or do you want to keep it partisan like it is? I will work with you to deal with the problem if you want to make it a nonpartisan [resolution] and really get at the problem. But I'll oppose it if you keep it partisan. Your choice. MR. HOVE said he is sensitive to the fact that this issue is not new. "We don't believe that any nomination ought to be held up irrespective of which administration happens to be in office; this has been an ongoing strategy, apparently, [and] this resolution requests that we just move forward." Number 0480 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG remarked: "I haven't had an answer to my question. Do we want to clean it up, make it nonpartisan and deal with it? Or do we want to have a partisan fight on the House floor? Your choice." MR. HOVE argued that there was very little time left to deal with this issue. He added, "If we had more time in this session, then I would probably be amenable to working some language through." REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said: I want you to consider that our time on the House floor is valuable too. My question to you all on the committee is, do you want 12 Democrats ragging this bill around. I don't think that's good policy, I don't think it [speaks] well for the bill, I think it's going to take up time, and I urge you to reconsider your position. Your choice. CHAIR McGUIRE asked whether there were any amendments. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he would be happy to offer amendments as long as they were viewed as friendly amendments. He suggested that he and Mr. Hove meet and come up with some proposed amendments that Mr. Hove would be in favor of. He offered: "What I would suggest conceptually is that we say, that through the past several administrations, groups of members of the [U.S.] Senate have not been cooperative in getting appointments confirmed, and we would urge that they work together to do so." REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON suggested deleting the language on page 1, line 16, through page 2, line 2, and then moving the resolution forward. He expressed disfavor with the concept of changing that language to reflect that dilatory tactics have been used by both parties throughout several administrations. Number 0191 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said one reason for changing the language in that latter fashion is because it is true. He pointed out that the way the resolution is currently written, it implies that this situation has only occurred in President Bush's administration, even though that's not an accurate reflection. He went on to say: I don't have a problem with the first "whereas" [statement]. I would keep the second ... through the fourth ... more general and say: in the past there have been a number of judgeships classified as judicial emergencies, and in the past several administrations these have been pending, both [U.S.] Court of Appeals and [U.S.] District Court nominations, and that this is not in the public interest, and therefore we resolve that we urge the [U.S.] Senators to work to allow a timely vote on the floor of the [U.S.] Senate on all judicial nominations and to work to improve the system or cure the rules. ... Let's just keep it clean. MR. HOVE responded: "I think if we all had an opportunity to vote on this resolution in this state, I think that a majority of the folks in this state would vote for it the way it is." REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG countered: "Would they not have voted for it the way it ... is under the previous administration too?" MR. HOVE acknowledged that that's possible, but added that by looking at the current political make up of the Alaska State Legislature, he believes that gives him a good indication of where the people of Alaska stand on this issue. CHAIR McGUIRE said she understands Representative Gruenberg's point, but is reluctant to go through an extensive rewording of the resolution. She noted that this resolution will not change law, and questioned whether anyone even reads this type of resolution. She said that she support leaving SJR 33 as is. She said she would hope that members would not choose to spend several hours on the House floor debating a resolution that some people won't even read. TAPE 04-79, SIDE A Number 0001 REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said: The reason I'm saying that is, we have seen, in the past two years, some bills that are like lightening rods and attract us ideologically because we may be pro-business or anti-business, or pro-development or anti-development, [pro-environment or anti- environment], but we have seen very few that are overtly partisan. I mean, there have been some that have had the effect of being that, mainly in this sphere of elections or lobbying or campaigning and stuff like that, but ... I can think of very few that are overtly partisan. We in the House have worked hard at being bipartisan, and I think we've been pretty successful. And I think that's good policy and the people of the state, I think, like it. I would hate to see the legacy of this House, in the last few days, be misperceived by something like this. And Senator Seekins, I'm being very frank about your bill; you're a friend of mine, but you need to know how I feel about this. And what [I] have suggested to Mr. Hove ... [is] that this is going to turn us, I am afraid, into a very partisan debating society the last few days of this session. I think the point certainly has been made, when you passed it through your [legislative] body, the way your [legislative] body feels. REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON opined that even if the language on page 1, line 16, through page 2, line 2, were deleted, there would still be debate on the House floor. He remarked that since a majority of House members will vote to pass it, the committee should just move the bill from committee. Number 0229 SENATOR RALPH SEEKINS, Alaska State Legislature, speaking as chair of the Senate Judiciary Standing Committee, sponsor by request, said: There were no accusation on the floor, in the Senate, of this being partisan; it came down to the numbers, basically. I will tell you right up front that I don't care who the President of the United States is, whether it was Bill Clinton, who was not my favorite President, or whether it's George W. Bush, who I like, that the man deserves an up and down vote on his nominations. When either party plays politics with the number of judges that need to sit in the courts across the nation, it is absolutely wrong - there is no doubt in my mind - I don't care if it's Republicans playing ... fast and loose or it's Democrats playing fast and loose. We don't do that here. When the governor brings his nominations, we get an up and down vote on it. That's what this is saying. And right now, quite frankly, we're not getting there because people are closing off on that. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG responded: "I agree with what you've said. Can we put what you've just said into this [resolution]? That's all I'm asking, to do what you've just said." SENATOR SEEKINS remarked: "I guess ... it's true, because a minority, whether that is the minority or not, is keeping this; it's ... a fact that a minority of [U.S.] Senators are doing it. And just by number, ... we did not say that it was the minority, we just said a minority." REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG replied: The reason I'm saying this, Senator [Seekins], is because it uses President Bush, it uses the [U.S.] Senate; what I'd like to do, and I've committed to work with Mr. Hove ... [to] come up with some neutral language that does just what you've said - I don't really have a problem with the resolve - and let's do it so it can pass with bipartisan support and accomplish just what you've said. REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON opined that attempting to alter the resolution will delay it such that it doesn't have time to pass. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG offered his belief that a solution could be arrived at overnight. Number 0437 REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON moved to report CSSJR 33(STA) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note. Number 0440 REPRESENTATIVE GARA objected [for the purpose of discussion]. He said: We'll pass the resolution out, and certainly it's a fair bill for the Senator to push. This is what happens when people decide to abuse their power. For most of American history, the [U.S.] Senate has confirmed the ... President's nominations. In the 1800s and the 1910s, all the way through the '60s, all the way through the '70s, ... and even all the way through the Regan Administration, some very controversial judges got through. And really I think, frankly, with some of the leaders in Congress in the '90s, this [is] when all of a sudden the [U.S.] Senate started blocking the President's [nominations] with regularity, blocking every single nomination they could block. And both sides have done it, but it started with one party ... feeling their oats and now the other party's feeling its oats, and it's too bad. But it's not a new thing ..., unfortunately, [though] it's a recent thing. It's too bad. REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he would not object to moving the resolution from committee. REPRESENTATIVE GARA withdrew his objection to the motion. Number 0501 CHAIR McGUIRE announced that CSSJR 33(STA) was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.