Schumer Floor Remarks Ahead Of Cloture Vote On Judge Kavanaugh

October 5, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx.. 10:04 a.m.] regarding the cloture vote on  Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

 Madam President, from start to finish, President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court will go down as one of the saddest, most sordid chapters in the long history of the federal judiciary.

 The well was poisoned from the outset, when President Trump selected Judge Kavanaugh from a list of names pre-approved by hard right special interest groups, for whom the national interest is a trifling concern compared to repealing Roe v. Wade, cutting people’s health care, and achieving a partisan majority on the Supreme Court.

 The rot worsened when the Republican majority on the Judiciary Committee shielded the bulk of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from the public, discarding decades of bipartisan precedent and thwarting norms of transparency and of fairness. And finally, the dam broke under the weight of credible allegations that Judge Kavanaugh committed a sexual assault in high school.

 In 2018, the Republican majority conducted a hearing that made the Anita Hill hearings in 1991 look fair by comparison. In this hearing, there were no corroborating witnesses on either side. No independent investigation of the facts to inform the questioning. They even hired an outside counsel to put the witness, Dr. Ford, on trial.

 Only at the 11th-hour urging of breakaway members of their caucus, Republicans submitted reluctantly to a one-week investigation of the allegations, an investigation which was then severely circumscribed by the White House.

 Our Republican friends blame us for this process, they’re always finding a straw man, but nothing could be further from the truth. First, they blame us for delay, knowing full well that Majority Leader McConnell has complete control of when nominees are brought to the floor. Leader McConnell could have moved this nominee two weeks ago, or one week ago. Democrats had no say, and don’t when it comes to what comes to the floor. But in each case, Leader McConnell couldn’t move the nominee forward because he was blocked by fellow Republicans, not Democrats, from moving forward. When it comes to complaining about delay, two words never come from our Republican friends’ lips: Merrick Garland.

 Republicans are also saying we engaged in a “smear campaign” or the “politics of personal destruction” with this nomination. In reality they’re using Democrats as a straw man, because what they’re really talking about is what Dr. Ford said. Democrats did not induce her to come forward, her conscience did. Are our Republican friends accusing Dr. Ford and her deeply held memories of what happened to her of a smear campaign? Of engaging in the politics of personal destruction? Because that’s who they’re actually blaming. They’re decrying her testimony and then trying to blame Democrats. I don’t blame them, they have a flawed nominee. They don’t want the focus on the nominee.

 When future Americans look back at these proceedings, let them draw no lessons from the Senate’s conduct here. Let them look back on this chapter as the shameful culmination of the scorched-earth politics practiced by the hard right in America – people who will stop at nothing to entrench an advantage on our nation’s courts. Let the confirmation process for Judge Kavanaugh be recorded as a sorry epilogue to the brazen theft of Justice Scalia’s seat, the ignominious end of bipartisan cooperation and consultation on the confirmation of Supreme Court justices.

 And for what? For whom were Senate Republican leaders willing to discard all semblance of fairness to confirm?

 Judge Brett Kavanaugh, certainly a product of an elite education, but also someone with a hard right, conservative jurisprudence, far, far away from what average Americans believe.

 Why most Democrats opposed his nomination at the outset feels like ancient history, but let’s not forget that, most importantly, we strongly disagree with a number of Judge Kavanaugh’s views.

 He’s deeply skeptical of unenumerated rights, including a woman’s right to make fundamentally private decisions about her medical care. He’s deeply skeptical of the government’s role in protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions. He’s deeply skeptical of nearly all rules and regulations that protect consumers, workers, and the environment.

 And the flashing red warning sign at the center of Judge Kavanaugh’s jurisprudence are his views on executive power and accountability. Somehow, this conservative judge and scholar of the Constitution sees at the heart of American democracy a president-cum-king; an executive who’s unaccountable to the laws he’s sworn to uphold; a head-of-state who, while in office, should be beyond the reach of subpoenas, criminal investigations, or civil investigations.

 This moment in American history demands deep skepticism about Judge Kavanaugh’s views on executive power, nominated as he was by an executive who disdains the constraints of his office, and who is, at this very moment, the apparent subject of investigations his Supreme Court nominee believes should be invalid.

 I met with Judge Kavanaugh for almost two hours and I asked him about all of those issues. His answers were constantly evasive and utterly unsatisfactory. It was déjà vu all over again in the first round of hearings, when Judge Kavanaugh deliberately avoided talking about his views on Roe, health care, presidential accountability, and more. There was no legal reason, rule, or logic that prevented him from being clear and saying what he thought. He was evasive because he knows that his views are deeply at odds with the progress America has made over the last century of jurisprudence, and at odds with what most Americans believe.

 His performance was not only unfair and frustrating to the Senate, it was unfair to the American people. When a nominee refuses to disclose their views, chances are you have a nominee whose views are far outside the mainstream of America, whether they be far right or far left.

 My colleagues on the other side of the aisle may not have as grave a concern about these views as we do, but let no American be surprised if Judge Kavanaugh becomes a decisive vote to restrict the rights and privileges of the American people while stretching the bounds of privilege for the current occupant of the White House.

 Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, ultimately, does not only encompass questions of ideology or credentials but questions of character. Here again, Judge Kavanaugh falls woefully short of what Americans expect and deserve in a Supreme Court justice.  He has repeatedly misled the Senate about his involvement in some of the most serious controversies of the Bush administration, including warrantless wiretapping of American citizens; our policy against torture; the theft of electronic records from Democratic Senators; and his involvement in the nomination of very controversial judges.

 Faced with credible allegations of various types of misconduct, Judge Kavanaugh’s credibility was again tested, and he continued to dissemble and even prevaricate about easily-refuted facts. Beyond the issue of credibility, Judge Kavanaugh presented to the Senate the bitterest partisan testimony I have ever heard from a candidate seeking the Senate’s approval. Whether they be for the bench or the executive branch.

 Now, there are many who think that what happened when Judge Kavanaugh was seventeen years old should not be dispositive. Even if you believe that, his actions at age fifty three, in terms of demeanor, partisanship, and above all credibility, should be dispositive.

 Judges at every level of the federal bench should be held to the highest standard of ethics and moral character. Judges at every level should be judicious and credible and independent. But especially, especially on the Supreme Court. I do not see how it’s possible for my colleagues to say with perfect confidence that Judge Kavanaugh has the temperament, independence, and credibility to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

 So I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle: why Judge Kavanaugh?

 There is no dictate that you have to march blindly forward with a nominee when there are others available to you. There are many other judges who I’m sure conservatives would be happy to have on the court. I’d remind my colleagues: the seat that Judge Brett Kavanaugh aspires to fill was held by a Justice who assumed the bench after one nominee was voted down by the Senate and a second nominee withdrew his nomination.

 But the Republican majority has pressed forward blindly on Judge Kavanaugh, even when brave women came forward to speak truth to power. Why? For what cause? For the sake of winning? That is not reason enough.

 My colleagues on the other side: if you have doubts about Judge Kavanaugh’s credibility, about his ability to tell the truth, about his ability to be impartial and nonpartisan – no matter what you think of his jurisprudence or what he may or may not have done in high school and college – you should not vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court.

 So my friends, Democrat and Republican, for all the controversy, all the heavy-handedness of the process, all the hyperbole and vilification, of both sides, there is always hope that the Senate can save itself. We can salvage some decency, here at the end.

 If Judge Kavanaugh is rejected, President Trump will select another nominee, likely right-of-center, perhaps not to my liking, but without the cloud that hangs over this nominee, and we can proceed to consider that nominee in a much better, less partisan way.

 A bipartisan majority of senators -- considering fully the weight of Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, record, credibility, trustworthiness, and temperament, considering fully the heartbreaking testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford – can vote to reject Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and ask that President Trump send the Senate another name. For the sake of the Senate, of the Supreme Court, and of America. I hope, I pray, my colleagues will do so.