Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/06/2004 03:20 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                                    
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.                                                                                             

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