FOX News contributor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich falsely claimed that Republicans senators did not systematically block former President Bill Clinton's judicial nominees.
On the February 16 edition of FOX News' Hannity & Colmes, Gingrich criticized what he called Democratic senators' "blatant, deliberate, systematic filibustering" of some of President Bush's judicial nominees and then declared, "[T]he fact is, I do not believe that the Republicans in the Senate in the Clinton years systematically tried to obstruct [judicial nominees]. They tried to defeat people. They forced votes on people."
In fact, while Democratic senators used the filibuster to block 10 of Bush's 229 first-term judicial nominees, the Republican-controlled Senate prevented approximately 60 Clinton nominees from even receiving a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, much less a vote on the Senate floor. And while Senate Republicans under Clinton strictly enforced a "blue slip" rule -- which allows one home-state senator to prevent a nomination from moving forward -- they greatly relaxed this rule under Bush to circumvent Democrats' objections to several nominees.
As The Washington Post noted in a December 13 article detailing Republican opposition to Democrats' filibusters of Bush nominees: "Republicans say that Democrats have abused the filibuster by blocking 10 of the president's 229 judicial nominees in his first term -- although confirmation of Bush nominees exceeds in most cases the first-term experience of presidents dating to Ronald Reagan."
While MSNBC noted on January 14 that the Democratic senators' use of the filibuster to block nominees has been "the most aggressive use of that tactic in Senate history," the Republican-controlled Senate blocked up-or-down votes on far more Clinton nominees than the number of Bush nominees the Democrats filibustered, and, in most cases, even denied them hearings and committee votes. As The Christian Science Monitor noted on May 12, 2003, "some 60 Clinton nominees never had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee," which served "as effective a block to confirmation as a filibuster," according to Democrats. Similarly, as The Washington Post reported on September 5, 2003, "Senate Republicans enraged Democrats by bottling up about 60 of President Bill Clinton's nominees."
Further, the Republicans used the "blue slip" policy to deny Clinton appointments but then altered the policy after Bush took office. As The Christian Science Monitor has noted, the "blue slip" process is one "in which a home-state senator may indefinitely delay a nominee by failing to return a blue slip to the judiciary committee" confirming their approval of the nominee. But while Senate Republicans, led by Judiciary Chairman Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), used the "blue slip" to block Clinton nominees, Hatch relaxed and, in several cases, simply ignored the policy after Bush became president.
As CNN noted on August 14, 2001, even Attorney General and then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales has said that Republican senators' "partisanship over judicial nominations" during the Clinton era was "improper" and "wrong."