Schumer Floor Remarks On Senator McCain’s Legacy And The Need To Review All Of Judge Kavanaugh’s Record

August 28, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approximately 10:30 a.m.] regarding renaming the Russell Senate Office Building after Senator McCain and the need for Judge Kavanaugh’s record to be made public.  Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, as the Senate continues to mourn the loss of our friend and fellow senator, John McCain, let us dwell on how best to remember this great man – his friendship, his service, his integrity, and his career in the Senate.

 

One of the ways to carry on his memory is for us to try to live up to the expectations he had for the Senate, expectations he shared with us even in his waning days. To act with more humility, to ignore the critics, to put aside our differences when necessary and learn to trust each other more. In Senator McCain’s memory, we can try to live by those principles and make the Senate a place where despite the noisy din of politics, progress can still be made. That’s a sentiment I hope will long outlast the memorials, the tributes, and the observances this week.

 

I also proposed that we recognize Senator McCain’s legacy by renaming the Russell Senate Office Building in his honor. For three decades, Senator McCain was a fixture in those marble halls, an institution of the Senate. It is only fitting that his name should adorn a physical institution of the Senate, particularly one that housed the Armed Services Committee. What better way to encourage future senators, their staffs, reporters, and average Americans to study his noble but imperfect example?

 

Today, I will be circulating a letter with Senator Flake asking all of our colleagues if they’d be willing to join us in a resolution to officially rename the Russell Building the McCain Building. I hope that many, if not most or all, will join because Senator McCain was a dear friend to all of us and a great American, great senator, a great man.

 

Let his name be an example to future generations, as his service and character were to every one of us.

 

On another matter. Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. For senators, both on- and off- committee, to do their constitutional duty to advise and consent on his nomination, they must have time to review the nominee’s record.

 

Unfortunately, Chairman Grassley has so far frustrated our efforts to get full access to the judge’s records. First, he requested only 10-15% of Kavanaugh’s White House record, unilaterally declaring the bulk of his time in the White House irrelevant.

 

As the National Archives works through that request, the Judiciary Committee has been accepting documents from a lawyer hired by the Bush library to pre-screen documents. That lawyer, Mr. Burck, who counts Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and White House Counsel Don McGahn among his clients, has provided only 6% – 6% Madam President – of Kavanaugh’s White House record to the Judiciary Committee, recently declaring some documents “personal,” rather than presidential records – a determination that we have been given no basis for.

 

Judiciary Republicans went even further in their efforts to conceal Judge Kavanaugh’s record by labeling another smaller portion of those documents “committee confidential.” So of the 6%, close to a third cannot be seen by anyone but members of the Judiciary Committee and they cannot talk about it to others. That’s 4% of Kavanaugh’s record being made public. And there are no guidelines, no rules being made as to which 4% is being made public and which 96% is being withheld. Obviously, one might think that the lawyer who is clearly totally hooked in to the Republican appointment of the Kavanaugh mechanism would not allow things that might be controversial, that might not put Kavanaugh in such a good light. And yet there is not even a standard as to which documents are made public and which are kept confidential.

 

Does that sound fair to the Senate? Does that sound fair to the American people, who have a right to read and understand who this potential future Supreme Court justice may be? The burden of proof should not be on disclosure documents. We believe in disclosure. We’re an open place. Senator Grassley has made disclosure of things throughout the executive branch a hallmark of his career. And yet now they make the burden of proof on those who want to disclose. And the presumption is that documents won’t be disclosed. It is so wrong.

 

Any fair-minded observer would be hard-pressed to say that the review of Judge Kavanaugh’s record has been transparent, open, and fair. It has not been.

 

The next Supreme Court justice will have immense influence over the lives of Americans for generations, on issues ranging from women’s reproductive rights to health care, protections for pre-existing conditions, civil rights, labor rights, environmental protections, LGBTQ rights, and so much more. The next Supreme Court justice may very well make crucial decisions about the limits of executive power and accountability – something that hangs in the balance right now with all of President Trump’s actions.

 

We already know Judge Kavanaugh has some deeply troubling views on these issues, both because of his writings and because he was selected by a president who explicitly promised to pick pro-life judges, and judges hostile to our nation’s health care law.

 

In order to get a complete picture of Judge Kavanaugh’s views on these crucial issues, his record should be made public. There may be some highly relevant information on issues like Roe v. Wade, campaign finance, affirmative action, and more contained within the documents Chairman Grassley has labeled “committee confidential.”

 

Again, there is very relevant and significant information, even in the “committee confidential” documents, about Roe, campaign finance, affirmative action, and more. They should be made public. And Senator Grassley can do it with the flick of his pen. I would appeal to him, as a man, again, who has stood for disclosure and openness, who has probed and gotten angry at executive branch members of both parties for withholding information. And now of course we have this 180-degree turn. It’s not like the best of Chairman Grassley and I hope he’ll change his mind.

 

Certainly, there is an offer to allow senators to view these documents, but they ought to be released to the public. We don’t have secret proceedings when we choose a Supreme Court justice. It’s not the Senate going into the old chamber and debating among themselves. These documents should be made public. The Senate should not be in the practice of shrouding the eyes of the public from the crucial business of learning what a Supreme Court nominee will be like.

 

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