[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George W. Bush (2008, Book I)]
[February 7, 2008]
[Pages 157-160]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on Nominations Awaiting Senate Confirmation
February 7, 2008

    Thank you all. Please be seated; sit down. Yes, thanks for coming. I 
appreciate you being here in a timely fashion. After all, Washington 
traffic is famous for making people late. These days, it seems the worst 
delays, however, are in the committee rooms of the United States Senate.
    Many of the nominees for important Government posts have been 
waiting for Senate confirmation for way too long. Some of these men and 
women here--are with us today, and I want to thank you all for joining 
me. More importantly, I thank you for your willingness to step forward 
to serve our great country. These folks are qualified, and the Senate 
needs to give them a prompt vote.
    I appreciate very much Members of the Senate who have joined us. 
These are good, strong leaders, people who share the same spirit about 
the need to get confirmation done quickly, starting with the Senate 
minority leader, Mitch McConnell. I appreciate Arlen Specter joining us. You might remember Arlen that when--Arlen 
was the man, when I named two nominees for the Supreme Court, did a 
fantastic job of getting those nominees out of the Judiciary Committee 
and onto the floor of the Senate. And he had good help from Orrin 
Hatch, his friend and member of the Judiciary 
    I'm also here with some of the younger stars--not to call you guys 
old--but some of the younger stars--[laughter]--of the Senate: Richard 
Burr from North Carolina, Lindsey 
Graham from South Carolina, and Jim 
DeMint from South Carolina. Thank you all 
for coming. Appreciate you guys being here.
    I thank members of my administration joining us. Steve, thanks for being here. Chief of Staff 
Bolten, I appreciate you being here. And 
thank you all for coming.
    As President, I have a constitutional responsibility to nominate 
qualified men and women for public office. That's my responsibility. I 
take it very seriously. I have nominated skilled and faithful public 
servants to lead Federal agencies and sit on the Federal bench. The 
Constitution also gives Senators an important responsibility. They must 
provide advice and consent by voting up or down on these nominees. 
Unfortunately, the Senate is not fulfilling its duty.

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    The confirmation process has turned into a never-ending political 
game where everyone loses. With more than 180 of my nominees waiting for 
the confirmation process in the Senate, it is clear that the process is 
not working. About half these nominees have been waiting for more than 
100 days, more than 30 have been waiting a year or more, and 9 have been 
waiting for more than 2 years.
    That's no way to treat men and women who have stepped forward to 
serve our country, and it's got to stop. It's in our Nation's interest 
that this process change. It's not right to treat these good folks this 
way. These nominees deserve an up-or-down vote. Many of them have had 
their careers on hold. They've got spouses whose lives are stuck in 
limbo. They have children waiting to find out where they're going to go 
to school.
    These are real folks making real sacrifices, and they should not be 
treated like political pawns. Senators should examine every nomination 
closely, but they should not drag them out indefinitely. If the Senators 
holding up this process believe my nominees are unworthy for 
confirmation, the course of action is clear: Hold a vote and see if the 
majority agree. If these nominees are not approved, they can move on 
with their lives. If they are approved, they can take office.
    The confirmation backlog also places this strain on our Government. 
Every day nominees are delayed, represents another day without them in 
office, and that makes it harder for the Government to meet its 
responsibilities. The nomination before the Senate--these nominations 
before the Senate are vital positions--or for vital positions affecting 
issues from the economy to public safety to national security.
    The Senate must confirm nominees who help guide our economy during a 
time of uncertainty. The Senate has stalled nominations for critical 
economic positions. I mean, we've got--we're dealing with uncertainty, 
and there are key positions that are not being filled.
    The three-member Council of Economic Advisers is down to one 
person, which makes for lonely Council 
meetings. [Laughter] One of my nominees 
for the Council withdrew his name after 6 months of waiting without 
receiving so much as a hearing. My other nominee continues to wait after 7 months of delay. At a time of 
important decisions for our economy, it is irresponsible for the United 
States Senate to leave these positions unfulfilled.
    One of the most important institutions for the American economy is 
the Federal Reserve. The Fed decides monetary policy, and it sets key 
interest rates that have an impact on homeowners and businesses across 
our country. Yet the Senate is delaying confirmation of three 
highly qualified nominees for the Fed's 
Board of Governors. I nominated these individuals nearly 9 months ago. 
They have valuable experience and skills, and the Senate needs to 
confirm them as soon as possible.
    The Senate also must confirm nominees who will help address issues 
of public safety. The Federal Aviation Administration plays a vital role 
in keeping air travelers safe. Yet the Senate has failed to act on my 
nominee to head this agency. In October, 
I nominated Bobby Sturgell to lead the FAA. Bobby has nearly 20 years of 
cockpit experience from his time as a Navy fighter pilot, Top Gun 
instructor, and commercial airline pilot. He is committed to addressing 
problems that have caused airline delays, and he has good experience and 
the skills necessary to get the job done.
    I appreciate the Senate commerce committee giving Bobby a hearing today. I urge the Senators to put aside 
politics and confirm this good man to office. It's important for the 
country that he be confirmed. If they don't like him, vote him down, but 
at least give him a vote as soon as possible.
    The Senate has also failed to act on my nominations for the Federal 
Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. As a result

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of the Senate's ongoing delays, this body can no longer decide cases 
because it has more vacancies than members. Two of my nominees for the Commission have 
gone more than a year without even receiving a confirmation hearing. The 
American people have not forgotten the recent mining tragedies in 
Kentucky and West Virginia and Utah, and they expect this Commission to 
have enough members to issue decisions on mine safety.
    The Senate must also confirm nominees who will help protect 
America's national security. In this time of war, we need a strong 
Department of Justice. Yet the Senate has not voted on seven nominations 
for senior leadership positions at the Department. I remember being 
criticized for having too many vacancies at the Justice Department. We 
stepped up. We sent good names up, and now it's time for those critics 
to act.
    One of the vacancies is for Deputy Attorney General. The Deputy 
Attorney General helps lead efforts to detect and prevent terrorist 
attacks here at home. I've selected an outstanding nominee for this 
position, Judge Mark Filip. I'm sorry that 
he's not here. He's dealing with a serious family matter. This former 
prosecutor has earned a reputation for being fairminded and dedicated.
    Several years ago, the Senate confirmed him unanimously for a 
lifetime position on the Federal bench. In other words, this isn't the 
first time he's gone through a confirmation 
process. If the Senate can confirm this good man for a lifetime post, 
there's no reason the Senate cannot confirm him to spend the next year 
protecting the American people. Yet one Senator has placed a hold on this nomination because of an issue 
that has nothing to do with the judge. This is unacceptable. Senators 
need to base their decisions on the judge's qualifications for the job, 
they need to bring this nomination to the floor for a vote, and they 
need to confirm this good man.
    As Senators confirm these nominees, they also must confirm judges to 
the Federal bench. I've nominated good men and women who will rule by 
the letter of the law, not the whim of the gavel. I thank the Senators 
on both sides of the aisle, like Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl, and Arlen and Dianne Feinstein and 
Thad Cochran, for helping confirm fine 
judges like Leslie Southwick.
    Unfortunately, some of their colleagues continue to delay votes for 
28 of my other nominees. The Senate has sat on these nominations to the 
court of appeals for nearly 600 days. And in some cases, the Senate has 
imposed a new and extra constitutional standard where nominees who have 
the support of the majority of the Senate can be blocked by a minority 
of obstructionists. As a result, some judgeships can go unfulfilled for 
years and justice can be delayed for the American people.
    Our courts should render swift decisions. That's what we expect, and 
so should the United States Senate. Many of my nominees would fill 
urgent vacancies on courts that are understaffed and overworked. I've 
sent the Senate three nominees to relieve such a 
situation on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Bob Conrad and Steve 
Matthews and Rod Rosenstein are with us today. These are my nominees. 
They are accomplished members of the legal community. They will be 
outstanding members of this court. Yet the Senate has not acted on their 
nominations. This delay is irresponsible. It undermines the cause of 
justice. And the United States Senate needs to bring every one of my 
judicial nominations to the floor for an up-or-down vote.
    When men and women agree to serve in public office, we should treat 
them with respect and dignity. When the Senate fails to do this, it 
leaves important positions in our Government vacant for months at a 
time, and it makes it harder for future Presidents to be able to attract 
good people to serve the United States of America.

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    We've got to--I'm really grateful for the many talented and 
dedicated and patriotic men and women who have answered the call to 
service. And now my call to the United States Senate is this: Rise to 
your responsibilities, give these nominees the vote they deserve, and 
confirm them as soon as possible.
    Thank you for coming.

Note: The President spoke at 10:50 a.m. in the East Room at the White