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The Senate's obligation to act on federal nominees

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By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

Perhaps one of the most important responsibilities of the United States Senate is to give the President's pending federal nominations a prompt vote in order to ensure that Federal courts and agencies have the personnel they need to best serve the American people.

Currently, there are more than 180 nominees awaiting a vote in the Senate. Thirty of these nominees have been waiting more than a year for a Senate vote and half have been waiting 100 days or longer. This is simply unacceptable.

The Senate confirmation process should be thoughtful and thorough. However, when the investigation of a nominee is complete, an up or down vote on that nominee should occur. Many nominees are being forced to wait six months, a year, and longer just to receive a vote on their nomination due to excessive and unprecedented filibustering by Senate Democrats. A Senator has every right to object to a nominee, but a minority of Senators should not be able to take the right to vote away from the entire body, and effectively dismantle the traditional nomination process.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has almost thirty pending nominations for Federal judgeships before it. This matter is especially important when the vacancy rate in our courts is so high. We cannot afford to have such a shortage of judges that justice is delayed for victims of crime in America. If there are no judges in our courtrooms, America's legal system simply won't function.

In addition to these crucial judicial nominees, 160 non-judicial nominees continue to wait for a vote in the Senate. These nominees are to fill key positions affecting a wide range of issues of vital importance to our country such as the economy, public safety and national security. For instance, despite the recent tragedies at the Sago Mine in West Virginia and Crandall Canyon in Utah, the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission cannot decide cases because it has more vacancies than members. The President currently lacks two of the three top economists that serve as members of his Council of Economic Advisors. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has operated for more than three months without a confirmed director and six nominees are awaiting confirmation for positions at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These positions oversee important programs that provide health care and social services to our children and senior citizens.

Last week President Bush called on the U.S. Senate to carry out their Constitutional duty and fill the nearly two hundred vacancies within the federal court system and other federal agencies. It is time to put partisan politics aside and give these important nominees the courtesy of a simple yes or no vote in the Senate.