December 17, 2017

Van Hollen State on the Nomination of Don R. Willett To Be A United States Circuit Judge For The Fifth Circuit

Mr. President, I opposed the nomination of Don Willet to serve as a Judge on the Fifth Circuit. Senate Republicans, lacking a robust legislative agenda, despite unilateral control of the government, decided to confirm another highly controversial nominee.

Last week, Republicans confirmed three Circuit Court judges. In early November, Senate Republicans confirmed four judges in one week. This accelerated confirmation pace is unconventional and alarming. Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are willing to set aside decades of standing tradition and policies in order to confirm highly ideological judges who, in many cases, seem to have more of a political agenda than the impartial temperament necessary for the fair administration of justice.

This seat has been open for years because Senate Republicans refused to work with the Obama Administration and agree upon a consensus mainstream nominee that reflects the views and opinions of the majority of Americans. Now that Republicans are in the majority and no longer need to obstruct the White House, they have decided to advance Judge Willet, a judge described as the "most conservative justice in Texas."

Judge Willet was on Trump's Supreme Court short list which indicates that he met the Federalist Society's and the Heritage Foundation's ideological litmus test. This should concern all Americans, regardless of party affiliation. Our judicial system should not be outsourced to outside groups who want to stack the courts with judges who share their extreme political agenda.

Judge Willet has expressed insensitive views towards the LGBTQ community and skepticism that women face unique challenges in the work place such as unequal pay and sexual harassment and discrimination. In light of the #MeToo Movement and the countless women who have shared their stories of workplace sexual harassment, Judge Willet's opinion is at best misinformed. I hope that Judge Willet's views have evolved since he wrote that opinion for then-Governor George W. Bush.

I also hope my colleagues will start to recognize that they are setting a dangerous precedent by turning the Senate into an assembly line for highly ideological judges who appear to be more aligned with a political agenda that the impartial administration of justice.