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Comity may have returned to the Senate with a deal that averted a showdown over confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominees, but beforehand, passions ran high. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., of a naked power grab to push nominations through.
"If we do not pull back from the brink, my friend the majority leader is going to be remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever," McConnell said.
Reid responded, "No matter how often my friend rudely talks about me breaking my word, I am not going to respond talking about how many times he has broken his word."
A few days after that exchange, McConnell appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press where he argued that the president’s track record has been pretty good.
"What is the problem here? The president has had 1,540 of his nominations confirmed, only four defeated. He’s not lost a single member of the cabinet. He’s getting them faster than President Bush was at the same time in his second term," McConnell said.
There are actually three claims in that statement. Here, we will look at the last one, "He’s getting them faster than President (George W.) Bush was at the same time in his second term."
We contacted McConnell’s office, and communications director Michael Brumas told us that the Senate had confirmed 28 judges, compared to 10 total by this same point in 2005.
Brumas has those numbers exactly right. The only problem is that McConnell on Meet the Press did not specify that he was talking about judges. We brought this up with Brumas, and he told us that McConnell has used the comparison between Obama and Bush a number of times to describe the pace of judicial nominations.
Again, that’s accurate. We found that just a few days earlier, McConnell made the point on the Senate floor about judges.
However, he didn’t say that during this interview. All he said was that Obama was "getting them faster than President Bush was at the same time in his second term."
We wanted to see how the numbers came out when we looked at all nominations in the first year of the second terms of both presidents, up to July 14, the day McConnell was interviewed. With the guidance of Anne Joseph O’Connell, associate dean at the University of California-Berkeley Law, we searched the nominations database at the Library of Congress.
We found that the Senate has confirmed 68 of Obama’s nominees. By this point in the 109th Congress, the Senate had confirmed 129 of Bush’s nominees, nearly twice as many.
McConnell said that the Senate had confirmed more Obama nominees than it had at the same point in Bush’s term. The opposite is true. Bush had 129 confirmations compared with 68 for Obama.
McConnell should have included the detail about judges, as he has in the past, but he did not. It is unlikely that most viewers would have been able to fill in the missing words because not everyone is familiar with McConnell’s talking points.
We rate the statement False.
NBC News, Meet the Press, July 14, 2013
Email interview with Michael Burmas, communications director for Sen Mitch McConnell, July 18, 2013
Politico, Harry Reid-Mitch McConnell relationship hits new low, July 14, 2013
Congressional Record, Senate procedural matters, July 11, 2013
Congressional Record, Senate legislative action, July 11, 2013
PolitiFact, Barack Obama says his judicial nominees have faced waits three times as long as George W. Bush's, June 4, 2013
PolitiFact, John Cornyn says move to delay Hagel nomination is "not a filibuster", February 18, 2013
FCW, Many presidential appointments still unfilled, 1 July, 2013
Congressional Research Service, President Obama’s first-term U.S. Circuit and District Court nominations: An analysis and comparison with Presidents since Reagan, May 2, 2013
U.S. Senate, Nominations overview
Congressional Research Service, Presidential appointments to full-time positions in executive departments in the 106th Congress 1999 to 2001, March 26, 2001
Email interview with Michael Gerhardt, professor of law, University of North Carolina School of Law, July 16, 2013
Email interview with Anne Joseph O’Connell, associate dean, University of California - Berkeley Law
Library of Congress, Nominations database, July 18, 2013
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