Schumer Floor Remarks On The 17th Anniversary Of The 9/11 Attacks And Judge Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing

September 13, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approximately 4:10 p.m.] regarding the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, yesterday was the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, an event which changed my city and our country forever. I spent the morning at the 9/11 memorial in Lower Manhattan. Two deep scars in the earth remind us where mighty towers once stood.

I’ll never forget that day, nor the next: the phones – when they worked – ringing endlessly, the smell of death, the lines of hundreds of people holding home-made signs, I’ll never forget that Mr. President, as I walked there. President Bush sent a plane and we went to Ground Zero the day after. Hundreds of people lined up: “Have you seen my father, Joe?” “Have you seen my daughter, Mary?” Because the towers had crashed but no one knew how many people had survived. It was awful.  Nearly 3,000 souls lost in one day, one of the bloodiest on American soil since the Civil War.

 

And people I knew…a guy I played basketball with in high school, a businessman who helped me on my way up, a firefighter who I went around the city with to ask people to donate blood. So, we all know people who are gone.

 

So, seventeen years ago today, September 12th, 2001, I called on Americans to wear the flag, in remembrance of those who were lost, the brave men and women who rushed to find those who might still be alive. I’ve worn this flag every single day since. I will wear it every day of my life, for the rest of my life, in memory of those who are lost.

 

Now, this year, I want to turn everyone’s attention to a harrowing statistic – by the end of 2018, we expect that more people will have died from exposure to toxic chemicals on 9/11 than were killed on 9/11 itself. Last year, 23 current or former members of the NYPD died of 9/11-related diseases, the same number who died on Sept. 11, 2001. A new tablet was recently installed at the Hall of Heroes at One Police Plaza to accommodate all the new deaths of members of the FDNY. There is now an American living with a 9/11-related illness in every one of the fifty states, and 429 of the 436 congressional districts, plus the District of Columbia.

 

Just as we’ll never forget the bravery so many fallen Americans showed that terrible day, let us never forget those first responders who did survive only to contract cancer or respiratory illnesses from breathing in a toxic cocktail of dust and ash at Ground Zero.

 

Nearly a decade years ago, I was proud, along with my colleague from New York, to pass the Zadroga Act to provide health care for our first responders and a victim’s compensation fund to help survivors who got sick and the families who lost a loved one to illness. Three years ago, I was proud to work across the aisle to make the health care component of the Zadroga Act virtually permanent.

 

Next year, however, Congress must reauthorize the Victim’s Compensation Fund, because the administrator of the fund now predicts that the funding won’t last until 2020 as we had previously hoped.  So many new claims are being filed because so many of these deadly cancers are just showing up now. As the death tally from 9/11 continues to grow, we have to make sure the fund is capitalized with enough money to provide for an ever-longer list of 9/11 victims.

 

So, I want to remind my colleagues that – soon – we have to come together once again to do what’s right for the families of the first responders and the surviving first responders themselves, who, without hesitation, risked their lives to save others, seventeen years ago yesterday.

 

Last week, the Judiciary Committee concluded its hearings on President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Over the course of two days of questioning, Brett Kavanaugh managed to avoid definitively answering nearly every question of substance, making a mockery of his participation in the hearings. 

 

He refused to say that he believed Roe v. Wade was correctly decided. He refused to say that he would affirmatively uphold the existing health care law, including protections for over one hundred million Americans with pre-existing conditions. He even refused to visit his views on executive power, and would not say if he believed a president was obligated to comply with a duly issued subpoena.

 

It didn’t matter if members of the Judiciary Committee phrased the questions about already decided cases or hypothetical situations. When he got an already decided case, he said ‘I can’t talk about those.’ When he got a hypothetical case, he said, ‘I can’t talk about those.’ He couldn’t talk about anything, anything. Why the heck did we have him before us and the American people if he refused to answer any of his questions? And so, after two full days of questioning, the American people are no closer to understanding the kind of jurist Judge Kavanaugh would be if confirmed to the Supreme Court.

 

In my view, Judge Kavanaugh’s silence on crucial questions about Roe, healthcare, and executive power speaks volumes about his fitness for the Supreme Court. There were so many questions he failed to answer, or purposefully evaded, and many times when he did answer, his answers were totally unsatisfactory and did not answer the question. Senators Leahy and Durbin, for instance, asked numerous questions about his involvement in Bush Administration controversies, including interrogation, the nominations of controversial judges like Pryor and Pickering. Judge Kavanaugh either avoided answering or offered misleading testimony.

 

In 2004, Judge Kavanaugh told Senator Feinstein he didn’t know about a potential judicial nominee’s views on abortion in the vast majority of cases. But recently released emails show that he was told about and discussed nominees’ views and ideology, including Roe. Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly denied knowledge of the Bush Administration’s policy on detention and interrogation of combatants, but emails released last week indicate that he had meetings on the subject, reviewed talking points, and opined on legal strategy. Judge Kavanaugh claimed that he only learned of President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program when it became public, but an email suggests he knew about a memo justifying the White House’s authorization of the program. Judge Kavanaugh said, for instance, that he didn’t personally work on the extremely controversial nomination of Judge William Pryor, but new records tell a different story. Emails show Judge Kavanaugh was personally involved.

 

So, the extent and number of these discrepancies is very disturbing. And these discrepancies were made about only the small portion of his record that Republicans have released. Given what we heard last week, who knows what is hidden in the 90 percent of Judge Kavanaugh’s record that Republicans continue to hide.

 

I was disappointed to hear that, yesterday, Chairman Grassley said that his committee would not examine Judge Kavanaugh’s misstatements. He said that it was an “executive branch decision” to look at misleading testimony, which defies all logic. Clearly, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee prefers to turn a blind eye to Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly misleading his committee. He, like his colleagues, wants to rush the nomination through.

 

The misleading testimony Judge Kavanaugh gave in this confirmation hearings raises larger questions about Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness for the bench. Here we have a partisan attorney, involved in every major partisan legal fight for two decades, who shaded the truth about those events to a Congressional Committee in order to cast his nomination in a more favorable light. What does that say about his impartiality? It certainly doesn’t suggest he’s simply this non-ideological, non-political, neutral arbiter of the law.

 

Now Mr. President, part of our responsibility in the Senate is to ensure that all judges, especially at the Supreme Court level, meet the highest standard of judicial impartiality and ethics, lest the Supreme Court become simply an extension of the partisanship we experience here in Congress, its rulings viewed as illegitimate by half the country.

 

So, I urge my colleagues on the other side to scrutinize Judge Kavanaugh’s comments to the Judiciary Committee and decide for yourself whether he was completely forthcoming. Because if a nominee provides false or misleading testimony to a committee, that should weigh heavily on the minds of every Senator when it comes time to vote to confirm or reject the nominee.

 

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