Schumer Floor Remarks On The Threat Judge Barrett’s Nomination Poses To Americans’ Health Care And Republicans’ Farcical Supreme Court Hearing Process

October 19, 2020

Washington, D.C. — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor following Senate Republicans’ farcical Supreme Court hearing and laid out the serious impact Judge Barrett could have on Americans’ health care and fundamental rights. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Last week, the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded what can only be described as a farcical set of hearings for a Supreme Court nominee.

In the midst of a pandemic—when several members of the Committee majority were exposed to or tested positive for Coronavirus, or themselves were sick with COVID-19 in the days immediately beforehand—hearings and an in-person markup were conducted with virtually no regard for the risks. No uniform testing protocol was put in place to protect all the people who had to be in that room. Why? Because the Republican majority wanted to jam this nomination through before the election.

The Chairman of the Committee ignored the Committee’s quorum rules so that he could conduct business without the participation of the minority. Why? Because the Republican majority has decided to ignore the rules, norms and standards – even their own rules, even their own standards – to get this nominee onto the bench.

Four short years ago, every member of that Judiciary Committee said that we shouldn’t approve a Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. Many refused even to meet President Obama’s nominee.

“Use my words against me,” Chairman Graham said in case a Supreme Court vacancy opened up in the final year of Mr. Trump’s term. This is his quote, talking about himself: “Lindsey Graham says let’s let the next president decide.”

But now, their supposed principle that we shouldn’t approve Supreme Court nominees in election years has been exposed as a farce. The Republican majority is trying to confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of a national election.

The Republican majority is running the most hypocritical, most partisan, and least legitimate process in the history of Supreme Court confirmations. Again: the Republican majority is running the most hypocritical, most partisan, and least legitimate process in the history, the long history, of Supreme Court nominations.

And what of the nominee?

She performed as nearly every Trump-nominated Judge has performed when nominated to the Supreme Court. Essentially, she answered nothing—nothing—of substance. Throughout the week, the Judiciary Committee and the American people were treated to the same practiced evasions that have become a hallmark of these hearings.

According to Judge Barrett, the judicial standard of ethics that a nominee ‘shouldn’t comment on cases that might come before the court’ is an excuse so large that it applies to any question she might not want to answer—even questions of basic legal fact. It produced an absurd and stunning set of exchanges.

Judge Barrett would not say whether voter intimidation is illegal. It very much is.

Judge Barrett would not say whether Congress is empowered to protect the right to vote. We certainly have that power.

Judge Barrett would not say if the President of the United States can unilaterally change the date of an election. He cannot.

She wouldn’t say if president should commit to the peaceful transfer of power, if absentee ballots were a proper way to vote, or if Medicare and Social Security were constitutional.

She wouldn’t even say that.

On the final day of her confirmation hearings, Judge Barrett refused to say if climate change was real because her answer might be “politically controversial.” Seriously. This nominee to the Supreme Court was unable to confirm the existence of climate change. What’s next? Gravity? Is the Earth round? To be fair, the Flat Earth Society might find that opinion “politically controversial.”

These aren’t matters of opinion. These are matters of law and matters of fact. She is a sitting Judge. And if the Republican majority gets its way, she will be a Justice on the highest court in the country. But apparently the American people do not deserve to hear anything about her views.

The principal thing we learned about Judge Barrett in her hearings is that she believes she doesn’t have to answer any question that might upset President Trump.

But of course, we do know that Judge Barrett has a certain interpretation of our laws and Constitution, one that she wants to hide from the American people because it’s so adverse to what they believe. President Trump swore that he would only nominate Justices to the Supreme Court who would “terminate” the Affordable Care Act. Judge Barrett herself harshly criticized Justice Roberts’ decision to uphold the law. Senator Hawley said that after meeting with Judge Barrett, he was satisfied she believes that Roe v. Wade was not correctly decided. And at one moment in the hearings last week, Judge Barrett admitted that she considered Brown v. Board a “super precedent” – outside the realm of legal challenge – but that Roe v. Wade is not.

So despite what the American people heard in the hearings last week, Judge Barrett does have opinions. She does hold views.

She has a track record of criticizing the decisions that upheld our health care law. She belonged to organizations and signed her name to advertisements that call for an end—an end—to a woman’s right to choose.

Her judicial opinions express an extreme and rather bizarre view of the Second Amendment. She believes that the government lacks the power to forbid felons from owning guns—a view far to the right of even, even Justice Scalia.

If Judge Barrett is confirmed, those views will matter a great deal to Americans whose fundamental rights are on the line at the Supreme Court; their right to affordable health care; to marry who they love; to join a union; to make private medical decisions with their doctor and without government interference; to vote without first having to jump through fifteen hoops and do twenty summersaults.

The American people should make no mistake: if Judge Barrett becomes Justice Barrett, every single one of their fundamental rights would be at risk.

This nominee, her views are so far away from what the average American believes, would do so much damage to the fundamental structure and comity of this country, that I just hope and pray two Republicans see the light and realize that we should not nominate any nominee before the election, which is two weeks and one day away.

Now of course, instead of ramming through a Supreme Court nominee in the most hypocritical of circumstances, the Republican majority should be working with Democrats on a real, comprehensive COVID-relief bill.