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Ayotte Statement Regarding "Nuclear Option"

Nov 21, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) voted today against breaking longstanding Senate rules protecting the rights of the minority party to seek a 60-vote threshold on the president's executive and judicial nominees - the so-called "nuclear option," which Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) once said represented "a raw abuse of power" that would "destroy the very checks and balances our founding fathers put in place to prevent absolute power by any one branch of government."

Senator Ayotte said: "The Democrats' vote to invoke the ‘nuclear option' and fundamentally change the rules of the Senate is a raw power grab which is deeply disappointing. Like the manner in which they rammed through Obamacare on party line votes, they have now broken the rules of the Senate to allow them to do the same for the president's executive and judicial nominees."

Ayotte continued: "The Senate has a constitutional advice and consent role when it comes to the president's nominees, and Senate rules have long protected the rights of the minority party. When Harry Reid was in the minority, he opposed the ‘nuclear option' rules change that he invoked today, which essentially reduces the Senate to being a mere rubber stamp for nominees put forth by current and future presidents. At a time when Americans want members of both parties to be working together, this partisan power play will only further inflame the partisan divide in Washington."

Regarding her vote on the nomination of Patricia Millett to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals: "I welcomed the opportunity to meet personally with Patricia Millett, and was impressed by her legal credentials, and I certainly appreciate her experiences as a military spouse. But given the DC Circuit's declining caseload, the addition of a new judge to this bench isn't justified."

According to data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the number of written decisions per active judge on the D.C. Circuit has decreased by almost 27 percent since 2005, and the total number of appeals filed has decreased by 18 percent during that time. According to the Congressional Research Service, "The D.C. Circuit has the fewest number of appeals filed of the other regional appellate courts." The average number of cases heard per active judge during the 2005-2006 term was 91, but by the 2012-2013 term that number had fallen 11 percent to 81. For that reason, Senator Ayotte is a cosponsor of the Court Efficiency Act, which would statutorily limit the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals bench to eight judgeships, and allocate to the Second and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals one additional judgeship each to better reflect the needs of our courts.

Last summer, Senator Ayotte supported a compromise agreement in order to protect the institution of the Senate from a Democratic proposal to eliminate the longstanding rights of the minority party to demand a 60-vote threshold on executive branch nominees.

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