Sullivan Wins Stand-off with White House Over Ninth Circuit Nominees

Biden White House had been preventing Senator’s meetings with circuit court nominees

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) announced on Sunday that he had met via phone with several nominees to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with jurisdiction over Alaska, ending a blockade by the Biden White House, which had been denying the senator the opportunity to meet with the judges prior to voting on their confirmation in the Senate. In his remarks on the Senate floor on December 13th, Sen. Sullivan argued that by withholding these meetings, the White House was subverting the “advice and consent” duties senators have under the Constitution. He also noted that this policy was a marked shift from the previous administration, which had facilitated meetings between senators and judicial nominees upon request. 

Sen. Sullivan delivered the news on Sunday Night in America on Fox News Channel, hosted by former Congressman Trey Gowdy.

Transcript of the senator’s interview: 

GOWDYSenator Sullivan joins us now. Thank you for joining us, Senator. I actually watched your conversation with Senator Whitehouse from Rhode Island on the Senate floor. It was cordial, as most Senate conversations are, but I do not understand the explanation for why you cannot meet with judicial nominees whose decisions impact your very state.  

SULLIVANWell, Trey, listen. I'm really glad you're raising this topic and, by the way, Merry Christmas. It’s great to be on the show. But here's the thing. This administration with some Democratic allies in the House and the Senate has been smashing key constitutional norms. As you know, they're trying to pack the Supreme Court. Look at what Elizabeth Warren just announced. They're trying to kill the filibuster. And then this one comes up—trying to undermine the advice and consent role that the U.S. Senate has with regard to nominees, especially, as you mentioned, judges who have life tenure. I've been fighting this and I'm actually glad to report right now that we finally have a victory on this one. We have stopped in its tracks this latest attack on the Constitution and constitutional norms. But I'll tell you, this was a breathtaking overreach—another one by the Biden White House. 

GOWDYWell, good for you, Senator. How in the world—because I watched you and Senator Whitehouse. I think you had put a hold on something until they just simply let you meet. So how did you pull this off?

SULLIVANI called the Biden White House and said, “What the heck is going on?” I meet with every Ninth Circuit judge, no matter what. As you mentioned in your piece already, the Ninth Circuit has enormous power over my constituents. They often get legal cases wrong. So I said, “Are you the one White House counsel that’s not letting me do my advice and consent role as a U.S. Senator?” It's hard to tell who's in charge over there in the White House. She actually said, “Well, we want to protect our judges.” I said, “Protect our judges? What the heck are you talking about? Protect them from what? Us doing our constitutional duty?” So I put holds on these judges and I got all of my [Republican] Senate colleagues to commit to voting against every Biden judicial nominee. And then I started talking to Democratic senators too. And, to be honest, I think I convinced some of them to say we're not going to do this. We're not going to undermine the Senate's advice and consent power. So we played hardball and finally I started getting some meetings with these judges who are up for life tenure appointments and will have enormous power over my state and the whole Ninth Circuit. Trey, you know, that's one out of five Americans. But this again is just another power grab and undermining of constitutional norms. We have to keep fighting. We had a victory on this one. But there's a lot more of the Constitution we have to protect. 

GOWDYYou know, senator, they do serve for life. They make incredibly challenging, difficult decisions. I've been lucky. Every federal judge I've appeared in front of you would have been proud of, whether you voted for them or nominated them, or not. They were wonderful. But the issue of temperament—will that road get heavy, will you change? How do you make that call if you've never met or talked to the person. 

SULLIVANYou're exactly right, and here's what I did in these meetings when I finally was able to have them. Again, I've met with every Ninth Circuit judge, by the way, every D.C. Circuit judge, and every Supreme Court justice. Of course, it's a huge part of our job. It's Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The notion that the White House would say you can't do that under the Constitution because we want to “protect” judges is just crazy. But when it comes to the issues of temperament or their knowledge, what I do in the cases of Ninth Circuit judges, Trey, is I send them several U.S. Supreme Court cases that have an impact on Alaska. I ask them to read them so that they're up-to-speed on big issues in my state. And then I talk about issues, like the Second Amendment. Let me give an example. Nearly 70% of the households in Alaska are gun owners. The Second Amendment is hugely important to my constituents. So I raised the issues that matter to Alaska and, to be honest, these judges usually don't know anything about these issues, and it's a way to educate them. So when they're on the bench for life, they are doing things that represent everybody in the entire circuit, not just where they're from. And, unfortunately, in my case, California produces the vast majority of the Ninth Circuit judges. Alaska gets one judge out of 29. So you better believe I'm going to interview every single one of them. We finally fought back and won against this latest Biden attack on the Constitution.

GOWDYWell, senator, just to show you how much of a nerd I am, I was actually watching C-SPAN. So I listened to it and that's what piqued my interest. Congratulations to you for getting this resolved. You know, life is a long time. You have a job for six years minus sort of day to day or night-to-night, but life is a long time. So kudos to you for staying on it and getting it resolved. Merry Christmas to the entire Sullivan family and thank you for being with us tonight.

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