WASHINGTON (CNN) - It's only his first Senate hearing, but Sen. Al Franken took the chairman's seat at the Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
When Chairman Patrick Leahy experienced a technical problem with his microphone, Franken volunteered to switch places with the Vermont senator, and sit in Leahy's chair. Faced with little choice, Leahy ambled down to the far end of the dais, and sat in the junior senator's chair to finish his prepared written statement. Franken, meanwhile, sat in Leahy's chair smiling from ear to ear.
Ranking Republican Jeff Sessions congratulated Franken on the move to the chairman's spot: "This is the fastest rise of any senator in history!" But the Minnesota senator's shift was short-lived: he soon relinquished the chair, and waited on the side until Leahy finished his statement. Leahy then returned to the chairman's seat, where a new microphone was in place. And Franken returned to the tail end of the committee seating chart.
Franken is in his sixth day in the Senate.
(CNN) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor Wednesday to blast Democrats for setting a start date on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing.
"Senator Leahy's decision to rush Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearing is indeed puzzling," McConnell said. "It risks resulting in a less informed hearing, and it breaks with years of tradition in which bipartisan agreements were reached and honored over the scheduling of hearings for Supreme Court nominees. And it damages the cordiality and goodwill the Senate relies on to do its business."
Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, announced Tuesday the hearings for Sotomayor would begin on July 13 - a date that was determined, according to the GOP, without consulting Sen. Jeff Sessions - the committee's ranking Republican.
"They want the shortest confirmation timeline in recent memory for someone with the longest record in recent memory," McConnell said. "This violates basic standards of fairness and it prevents senators from carrying out one of their most solemn duties, a thorough review of the president's nominee to a lifetime position on the highest court in the land."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing for the U.S. Supreme Court on July 13, chairman Pat Leahy of Vermont said Tuesday.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Leahy said the July hearing date favored by President Barack Obama would provide sufficient time for thorough examination of the federal appellate judge's record.
"It's going to allow several more weeks for committee members to prepare for the hearing ... and there's no reason to unduly delay consideration of this well-qualified nominee," Leahy said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday tried to reassure senators that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure and that U.S. aid money won't be diverted to produce even more nuclear weapons.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, raised the issue of Pakistan increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile as he chaired a hearing of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.
"Are we just giving them money, which is after all fungible, and is going into not fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda, which are groups that are destabilizing that country more and more all the time, but rather is that money just going into the nuclear program?" Leahy asked.
"I think that there is no basis for believing that any of the money that we are providing will be diverted into the nuclear program," Clinton replied.
(CNN) - Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, hailed David Souter as a "gifted jurist" and a "first-rate legal mind" Friday in an issued statement:
“Justice Souter has served the Nation with distinction for nearly two decades on the Supreme Court. I have admired his commitment to justice, his admiration for the law, and his understanding of the impact of the Court’s decisions on the daily lives of ordinary Americans. Throughout his career, he has been committed to the law and not to ideology. New Englanders treasure our strong sense of independence, and Justice Souter fits the independent Yankee mold. He has a first-rate legal mind. I have known him to be an honest and tireless person who has given years of his life in service to this country.
“Of course, we have all known that his deep love for New Hampshire would take him away from the Court some day. Nonetheless, I am sad to see a gifted jurist, a dedicated public servant and a decent man leave the bench. We have long been neighbors in New England, and I look forward to seeing him at home.
“Now more than ever, while the country is in the throes of an economic recession, and fighting to strengthen our economic and national security, Americans are looking to Washington for leadership and cooperation. I know that as President Obama selects a nominee to replace Justice Souter, he will continue to consult with Senators from both sides of the aisle as he has this year with so many nominations. In exercising their important roles in the confirmation of the next Supreme Court Justice, I hope that all Senators will take this opportunity to unify around the shared constitutional values that will define Justice Souter’s legacy on the Court.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman called Wednesday for the establishment of a nonpartisan "commission of inquiry" to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against former Bush administration officials in their prosecution of the war on terrorism.
Nothing "did more to damage America's place in the world than the revelation that our great nation stretched the law and the bounds of executive power to authorize torture and cruel treatment," Sen. Patrick Leahy said at the start of a committee hearing.
American "detention policies and practices from Guantanamo Bay [Cuba] and Abu Ghraib [Iraq] have seriously eroded fundamental American principles of the rule of law," he added.
Leahy, D-Vermont, called for the "truth commission" to have a "targeted mandate" focusing on issues of national security and executive power. He said it should look specifically at allegations of "questionable interrogation techniques," "extraordinary rendition" and the "executive override of laws."
He added that the commission should have the power to issue subpoenas and offer immunity to witnesses "in order to get to the whole truth."
Leahy refused to rule out of the possibility of prosecutions for perjury committed during the commission's hearings.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A key Democrat Monday called for the formation of a commission to launch a wide-ranging investigation of alleged wrongdoing by the Bush administration's Justice Department.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, called establishment of such a commission a "middle ground" between those who are demanding prosecutions, and those who simply want to put past disputes to rest.
"I don't want to embarrass anybody. I don't want to punish anybody. I just want the truth to come out so this never happens again," Leahy told a student audience at the Georgetown University Law Center.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, deserved it when Cheney launched the f-word at him in 2004.
In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Cheney was asked if he had any second thoughts or embarrassment. "No. I thought he merited it at the time," Cheney said, laughing.
The incident occurred in June 2004 when both Cheney and Leahy were on the Senate floor.
Sources who related the incident to CNN at the time said the vice president had told Leahy to either "f- off" or "go f- yourself."
The encounter during the 2004 presidential campaign, sources said then, was brought on by Leahy's criticism of the vice president over Halliburton Co. Cheney is the former chief executive officer of the oil field services company, and Democrats had suggested he helped win lucrative contracts for his former firm while serving in the Bush administration.
"It was partly that, it was partly also ... it had to do with - he is the kind of individual who will make those kinds of charges and then come act as though he's your best friend, and I expressed in no uncertain terms my views of his conduct and walked away," Cheney said at the time.
But as the old saying goes, time heals all wounds ... well, sort of.
"And we've since, I think, patched over that wound and we're civil to one another now," Cheney said this Sunday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In his second day on the job, Attorney General Michael Mukasey leaped into the political fray, telling a key Democratic senator he opposes his electronic surveillance plan and would recommend the president veto it if it is passed.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the eve of crucial committee votes to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Mukasey was adamant in opposing Leahy's plan for changing the law.
Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell co-signed the letter released Wednesday night by the Justice Department.
"We strongly oppose the proposed substitute amendment. If the substitute is part of a bill that is presented to the president, we and the president's other senior advisers will recommend that he veto the bill," they said.