Schumer Floor Remarks On Appropriations, NDAA, And Obtaining All Of Judge Kavanaugh’s Records

August 28, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today released the following statement regarding the annual appropriations bills, passing the NDAA, and the need to obtain all of Judge Kavanaugh’s records. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, as the Senate continues to work on appropriations, I want to thank the chairman, Senator Shelby, the ranking member Senator Leahy for their work. The process so far has been productive and bipartisan in the Senate. Both sides have worked to avoid poison pill riders. That’s meant steady progress. Next up are the annual appropriations bills for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Defense, which I hope will follow the same, bipartisan course of the previous few bills.

 

We’ve already achieved substantial increases in funding for important priorities through the appropriations process, including significant new resources for the NIH, significant new resources to combat the opioid epidemic, significant new investments in infrastructure, childcare, college affordability, Social Security and the VA. That’s a big victory for the American people, who have waited too long for our country to invest in them. Middle-class people are worried about staying in the middle class. People trying to get to the middle class are worried the latter is steeper and longer, these kind of things help them, college affordability, helping with childcare, building infrastructure, making sure social security is around, all of that helps the middle class. For years, a hard right group on the Republican side just cut the smithereens out of these things, but this year we’ve managed to restore them, and the American people will do a lot better because of it.

 

I’m also happy to report that the annual authorization of the national defense was signed into law. I want to take a moment to thank a colleague who is not here today to celebrate that fact, Senator John S. McCain, for whom the bill was named. Our dear friend Senator McCain has been such a stalwart champion for our men and women in uniform, and he would be proud that once again, Congress has met its obligation to give the military the support and certainty it needs to conduct missions around the globe. Even from afar, Senator McCain’s influence on this chamber is considerable and strong, his presence hovered over, as we all made sure know he would importune us if he were here to make sure the defense bill was strong and voted on quickly. And so many of these bases in my state, including our Niagara Air Force Base, including our Fort Drum, are so much better because of Senator McCain’s great work.

 

I wish him all the best and commend his staff, alongside Senator Inhofe and Senator Reed’s staff, for their work on the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act.

 

And now to the Supreme Court. As we return from the state work period, the Republican Majority continues to steam forward on President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court, announcing that hearings will begin on September 4th. That is just 12 business days from today, yet the Senate remains unable to do its due diligence on the nominee because we have access to only a tiny percentage of his record.

 

Why is this?  Senate Republicans are in the midst of a blatant and historic obstruction of a Supreme Court nominee’s record, denying the Senate and the American people access to critical information about a potential Supreme Court justice.

 

The entire record of Judge Kavanaugh’s three years as Staff Secretary in the White House – the most senior position he held before joining the bench -- is being deliberately, deliberately withheld from the Senate and from the public. The Republican Majority has unilaterally declared those papers irrelevant, even though Judge Kavanaugh himself has testified to the importance of the position and the work he did there.

 

Meanwhile, the small percentage of documents the Judiciary Committee will get to see are being pre-screened by a political operative named Bill Burck – a longtime Republican lawyer and former deputy to Brett Kavanaugh when he worked in the White House Counsel’s Office. A deputy to Brett Kavanaugh is now determining what of Brett Kavanaugh’s record should be there. Someone who was a lawyer for Steve Bannon, notorious Steve Bannon, a lawyer for Reince Priebus, a lawyer for McGahn, the White House Counsel 

 

Mr. Burck and his team have already started delivering documents to the Judiciary Committee, but they are refusing to provide a “privilege log.” Why are they giving us this document and not that one? Aren’t we entitled to know what their reasoning is at least so that the Judiciary Committee understands how many documents are being held back for executive privilege claims and on what basis? A privilege log has always, always been provided in previous Supreme Court vetting processes, and without it, we have no idea whether the basis for Mr. Burck withholding all of these documents is legitimate.

 

And where is our Chairman of the Judiciary Committee? He says this is the best ever process, then why aren’t we getting such a log? What’s his answer to that? I know he will come to the floor and rail and rail, but the process – the actual facts are much worst from what we’ve seen.

 

And here is something new, also being done by the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, one-third of those documents that we are getting, which is a percentage of the total documents, are being deemed as “committee confidential” by the Majority and have not been released, stacking an additional layer of secrecy on top of multiple layers of existing secrecy. Why are I and my staff and the other 79 Senators not on the Judiciary Committee being denied the ability to review so many of the documents that have been given to the Judiciary Committee? What are the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee hiding? The moniker “Committee Confidential” sounds like just another way to shield Judge Kavanaugh’s record from the eyes of the Senate and the American people. We have no knowledge of why these documents are being withheld.

 

Even the National Archives -- a nonpartisan and neutral -- felt compelled to release a statement about this process. They are usually very quiet, they are archivists, they just go ahead and do their job, but they felt what was going on was wrong, you can tell by their statement they released. The National Archives clarified that Mr. Burck’s review of Kavanaugh’s record is QUOTE – “a separate review – completely apart from the National Archives and the George W. Bush Presidential Library’s efforts. This effort by former President Bush does not represent the National Archives or the George W. Bush Presidential Library.” That’s what the Archivist said, they are separating themselves from such a secretive, non-democratic process. For a down-the-middle organization like the National Archives – very reluctant to comment on political matters -- to put out a statement like that goes to show you just how far Republicans, Chairman Grassley have departed from precedent.

 

The obstruction here is shocking. Everywhere you look, Republicans are deciding what constitutes the proper review of a nominee chosen by a Republican president. Republicans have unilaterally decided what documents are relevant to the Senate. Republican lawyers are the ones combing through those documents and deciding, unilaterally, which can be released to the Senate. The Republican Majority on the Committee is then deciding, unilaterally, which of those documents remain under the Committee’s lock and key. It’s like letting only the defendant in a lawsuit decide which evidence is admissible. Let me say that again, this is exactly like only letting the defendant in a lawsuit decide which evidence to admit. It would be a rigged trial, well, that is what’s happening here.

 

It seems as though Republicans are trying to rush Judge Kavanaugh through with as little scrutiny as possible because they know there are some troubling beliefs in his history. Think about what we already know: Judge Kavanaugh has written opinions skeptical of our health care law, reproductive rights, and even the contraception coverage requirement. On this issue he is far to the right of the American people, that is maybe why our Republican friends don’t want people to know his views

 

He’s argued that presidents should, effectively, be above the law; that they should be immune from civil and criminal investigations while in office; that presidents can decline to enforce a law that they “deem” unconstitutional, even if a court has held it constitutional; that presidents should be able to reach into independent federal agencies to hire and fire the heads of those agencies at will. He rules almost reflexively against actions by federal agencies, whether it’s net neutrality or environmental protections, or dark money – that’s another one. He seems to agree with the Citizens United decision and would seem to allow dark money -- poisoning our politics, leaving American people with little faith in government that they will have an influence -- to have greater influence than ever.

 

This isn’t just about allowing the Senate to review documents for the sake of it; we need to scrutinize Judge Kavanaugh’s record because his beliefs will matter a great deal in the decades ahead if he gets approved. On issues ranging from health care to women’s reproductive rights to issues of executive power and accountability.

 

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, has declared that the President of the United States may decide not to comply with a subpoena, issued by the Special Counsel or whomever. A court case on the matter could reach the Supreme Court. So this isn’t a hypothetical case. It is well within the realm of possibility that the Supreme Court will have to decide whether President Trump, who has shown so little respect for rule of law, will have to comply with a duly issued subpoena. So it matters what Brett Kavanaugh thinks about this. Before we elevate someone to the Supreme Court who may have to rule on the issue of presidential subpoenas, don’t the Senate and the American people deserve to know what the nominee thinks?  This is just one of many reasons why the Senate and the public must be able to review the nominee’s full record.

 

There must be a reason Republicans are so intent on hiding this nominee’s record and rushing through his confirmation. What are they hiding? What are they hiding? What are they afraid of? I think they realize if the American people knew just how Justice Kavanaugh felt before he became a judge, they might not want him to be there 

 

Republicans demanded all of Elena Kagan’s documents and Democrats agreed to request them. Again, we have a hairsplitting argument by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He says we are giving more documents than before. It’s the same percentage of documents that matter. Are you seeing the whole record or only part of the record? Some people have bigger records than others. Kagan, we Democrats, in the majority, when our Republican friends, including the Senator from Iowa asked, gave them the whole record. That is what we should be getting as well.

 

In fact, Republicans, including the distinguished Majority Leader, demanded all of Judge Sotomayor’s record, including documents from her time as a district attorney and even her records as a board member of the Puerto Rican Legal and Education Defense Fund. We agreed, but now they have totally changed the rules, and I understand. Chairman of the Judiciary Committee is a decent man and when he needs to do things like this, he doesn’t like it, but he ought to rise to the occasion.

 

What they are doing is flat-out wrong. The American people deserve a methodical and thorough examination of a nominee who will wield immense influence over their lives for generations. The Republican majority seems intent on denying the American people that basic right.

 

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