tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN February 24, 2016 3:58am-5:19am EST
democratic leader's constituents on this day. one might say it is an almost unprecedented moment in the history of our country. it's been more than 80 years -- 80 years since a supreme court vacancy arose and was filled in a presidential election year. and that, mr. president, was when the senate majority and the president worke were from the se political party -- the same political party. it's been 80 years. since we have divided government today, it means we have to look back almost 130 years to the last time a nominee was confirmed in similar circumstances. that's back when politicians like mu mugwamps were debating policies like free civil and a guy named grover ran the
country. think about that. as senators, it leaves us with a choice. will we allow the people to continue deciding who will nominate the next justice or will we empower a lame duck president to make that decision on his way out the door instead? the question of who decides has been contemplated by many, including our friends on the other side of the aisle. we already know the incoming democratic leader's view. the senior senator from new york didn't even wait until the final year of president george w. bush's term to declare that the senate should reverse the presumption of confirmation and not confirm a supreme court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances. we also know how the current democratic leader feels about judicial nominees from a president of the other party. here's what he said. "the senate is not a rubber stamp for the executive branch. nowhere in the constitution does it say that the senate has a duty to give presidential
nominees a vote. it says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the senate. that's very different than saying every nominee receives a vote." well what about the views of the top officer at this body, the president of the senate? joe biden was a senator for many decades. he was a loyal democrat. he developed enduring friendships in both parties, and before becoming vice president, he served here as chairman of the judiciary committee. let's consider what he said in circumstances similar to where we find ourselves today. it was an election year with campaigns already underway, a president and a senate majority from different political parties, just like we have today. and here's what appeared on page a-25 of "the washington post." senator joseph r. biden, chairman of the judiciary committee, has urged president
bush not to fill any vacancy that might open up on the supreme court until after the november election warning that any election-year nominee would -- quote -- "become a victim of a -- quote -- "power struggle of control over the supreme court." biden said he would also urge the senate not to hold hearings on a nomination if bush decided to name swufnlt the article continued, quoting then-senator biden. "if someone steps down, i would highly recommend the president not name someone, not send a name up," biden said. "if he did send someone up, i would ask the senate to seriously consider not having a hearing on that nominee." and then this: "can you imagine dropping a nominee after the three or four or five decisions that are about to be made by the supreme court into that fight, into the caldron of the middle of a presidential year," biden went
on. "i believe there would be no bounds of propriety that would being honored on either side. the environment wroo be so supercharged and the so prone to be able to be distorted. whom ever the nominee washings good, bad, or indifferent," he added, "would become a victim." as the current chairman of the judiciary committee pointed out yesterday, senator grassley, biden went even further here on the senate floor. he said that, "it does not matter how god a person is nominated -- how good a person is nominated by the president. it is the principle be, not the person that mattered." biden said some of our most heated confirmation fights have come in election years but also re-miewrnded senators when presidents exercised restraint and withheld prosecute making a nomination until after the election. one of them was abraham lincoln. it offers an example others may choose to consider.
president obama, like lincoln, once served in the illinois legislature. it is a place he returned to just the other day to talk about healing the divide in our country. here's what he said. "it's been noted often by pundits that the tone of our politics has gotten better since i was inaugurated. in fact it's gotten worse. one of my few greets is my inability to reduce the polarization and meanness in our politics." well, this is his moment. he has every right to nominate swurntion evesomeone, even if dl plunge our initial a bitter struggle. that certainly is his right. even if he never expects that nominee to be actually confirmed but, rather, to wield as an election cutting edge l, he -- election cudgle. he can let the people decide and make this a legacy-building moment rather than just another campaign road show.
whatever he decides, his own vice president and others remind us of an essential point: presidents have a right to nominate just as the senate has its constitutional right to provide or withhold consent. in this case, the senate will withhold it. the senate will appropriately revisit the matter after the american people finish making in november the decision they've already started making today. but for now, i would ask colleagues to consider once more the words of vice president biden. here's what he said. "some will criticize such an decision and say it was nothing more than an attempt to save a seat on the court in the hopes a member of my party would be permitted to fill it but that would not be our intention, mr. president. if that were the course to choose and the senate could not consider holding hearings until after the election, instead it
would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is underway -- and it is -- action on a supreme court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over." that's vice president biden when he was chairman of the judiciary committee in a presidential election year. fair to the nominee, essential to the process, a pragmatic conclusion. the words of president obama's own number two, what else needs to beal resources, not just lip service, to this important problem. i know the republican leader is doing his best to try to make a good picture here as to why he's made the decision that the senate's not going to confirm any supreme court nominee that the president puts forward. i heard one statement by the former chair of the judiciary committee this morning say it doesn't matter who he puts up, we're not going to vote for him yen -- anyway -- or her whatever
the case might be. but the facts of my case are distracting and wrong. he can read all the statements of the senior senator of new york and the vice president, but never were any nominees held up. in fact, he -- you don't have to go back to grover as he indicated to find a similar situation. let's talk about ronald, a more recent president. president reagan in 1988, the last year of his presidency, put forward the nomination of anthony kennedy to be a supreme court justice, the last year of his term. and what did we do? we took it up, and he was confirmed. now there's lots of time to do things.
biden's statements -- vice president biden's statement was made in the middle of the summer of the year that he spoke, but there's so much time left. we have 333 days left in president obama's term of office, so there's plenty of time to get the work done, because average days to confirm justices, 67 days. so i think we should be able to squeeze out of 333 days, 67 days. i don't want to burden everyone with facts, but sometimes they get in the way of some of these ridiculous diversions from what our job should be. when senator biden was chairing the judiciary committee in 1991 and 1992, george w. bush's term, we confirmed 120 judges.
certainly that hasn't been the case in the last few years because the republicans basically opposed all judges, and now this new direction toward making sure there's no confirmation of a supreme court justice is obstruction on steroids. but this is really a pivotal moment for the republican party and this republican senate. the republican party of abraham lincoln and theodore roosevelt is transforming before our eyes, abandoning its last vestiges of decency and unconditionally surrendering its moral compass to donald trump and ted cruz. gone are the days of levelheaded ness and compromise. the republican party turned
bipartisan into a dirty word. behind closed doors my republican colleagues like to express disappointment at the direction the party has taken but never, ever would they say anything publicly because these extreme elements in their party who seem to be running the party would criticize them. republicans should think long and hard about this simple fact. if they follow the course set by the republican leader, every one of them will be responsible as trump and cruz for the debasement of the republican party. he will join them in what they've done to the party. it will be a new and a much worse republican party. clearly senator mcconnell's absolutely falling that lead of extremists trump and cruz. there is no clearer response than the republican leader's response to the supreme court vacancy. certainly there's no better example of that, the republican leader's response to the recent supreme court vacancy. in the aftermath of justice
scalia's passing, the senior senator from kentucky could have announced his intent to fill the senate's constitutional responsibility and invited the president to send a a well-equal fied candidate to the -- well-qualified candidate to the senate for consideration. but that's not what he did. instead the republican leader announced he will deny president obama's constitutional right to send a nominee to the supreme court despite all precedents set and by so doing he'll leave the supreme court in a state of uncertainty. senator mcconnell something leading the cost to obstruct and cheapen the presidency at all costs regardless of the damage it does to our democracy. doesn't that sound familiar? it sounds like something donald trump would do. that's because that's exactly what donald trump urged senator mcconnell to do. at a republican presidential debate in south carolina ten days ago, mr. trump said of the supreme court vacancy -- and i
quote -- "i think it's up to mitch mcconnell and everybody else to stop the nomination. it's called delay, delay, delay." close quote. donald trump. that's exactly what the republican leader is doing: delay, delay, delay. 333 days isn't enough to do the work that we ordinarily do in 67 days. it's disappointing that the senator from kentucky takes his marching orders from extremists like donald trump. it's a pretty stark change from what senator mcconnell used to believe. he used to loathe this radical tea party faction of the republican leader party. according to an account, this was in "the new york times," the republican leader once referred to tea party republicans as -- and i quote -- "those idiots. those people come up here and
have never been in office and know nothing about being in office." close quote. yet today he's meeting with these same republicans. he's meeting with the house freedom caucus, the same republicans who worked with ted cruz to shut down the government. and they shut it down. it seems as though the republican leader now subscribes to this new radical republicanism. but even though this extremist brand of politics sells in presidential primaries, mainstream americans categorically reject it. yesterday public policy polling released a survey of independent voters in pennsylvania and ohio. not democrats, not republicans, but a large swath of america who are now independents. these numbers should serve as a wakeup call to the republican leader and his party. 70% of voters in ohio believe a new supreme court justice should be named this year.
more than 60% of independent voters in pennsylvania believe a new supreme court justice should be named this year. the american people are telling the republicans in the senate that they reject this obstruction of the supreme court nominee. unfortunately, the republican leader is listening to donald trump and the junior senator from texas. he's not listening to mainstream america. he's not listening to the few voices of reason coming from his own party, even from his own senators. yesterday the senior senator from maine, a republican, told cnn -- and i quote -- "for my part, et it's clear that the president can send up a nominee. it is the duty of the senate under the constitution to give our advice and consent or withhold our consent. i believe we should follow the regular order and give careful consideration to any nominee that the president may send to the senate." close quote. mr. president, the precedent has
been in this body that even in the judiciary committee, if there's a hearing held and the person is not reported out with a majority vote, it comes to the floor anyway. senator leahy, the long-term chair of the party -- i'm sorry -- of the judiciary committee, president pro tempore of the senate, ranking member of the judiciary committee now, will come and talk about this this morning. but the quote i just read for senator collins, she is not alone urging the republican leader to follow regular order. a sitting senator said the same thing and i'm not going to read what all of them say, but there is a small nucleus of republican senators who believe strong that what mcconnell is doing is wrong. the republican senator from indiana, senator coats, is quoted as saying -- quote -- "if the president nominates someone which is his choice i think that person deserves a hearing if
that person is obviously not someone nominated for political purposes." even former colleagues agree that the president's nominee deserves a fair shake. the former republican senator from indiana, dick lugar, is urging senate republicans to do the right thing and honor their constitutional duty. he served here for more than three decades and here's what he said yesterday -- and i quote -- "i can understand the reluctance given the controversy that surrounds all the debate that has already occurred, but that is not sufficient reason to forego your duty." close quote. but perhaps former republican senator from maine, olympia snowe, said it best -- and i quote -- "i believe the process should go forward and be given a good-faith effort." close quote. good-faith effort, it's a phrase we hear often but it's absolutely crucial to american democracy. our constitution was constructed with the expectation that elected leaders would act in
good faith. that's how our government operates. it should. under republican obstruction that has not been the case. i ask my republican colleagues, whose side do you want to be on? whose voice do we listen to? these voices of moderation and reason coming from within your own party or the shrill voices, the shrill, shrill voices of trump and cruz? there is a -- there is not time to vacillate. right now the republican leader is leading his conference straight to the side of donald trump and ted cruz. but it's not too late to change course. reject the extremist approach propagated by the likes of donald trump and ted cruz will only hurt our country. put aside this obstruction and work with president obama to fill this crucial vacancy on the supreme court. do your job. all we're objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president,
this last saturday i was honored to attend the funeral mass for justice antonin scalia. i couldn't help but recall back when president reagan nominated him for the supreme court of the united states that judge scalia said at the time said that his only goal was to be a good judge. today, 30 years later, it's clear that justice scalia who until his death served longer than any other current members of the supreme court of the united states was a good judge. in fact, he was a great judge. he was a giant of american jurisprudence. and as i got to know him a little bit better in more recent years, thanks to a mutual acquaintance, i can tell you he was also a good man. my first encounter with justice scalia was back in 1991 when i
had won an election to be on the texas supreme court, and the court invited justice scalia to come to austin, texas, and administer the oath of office. at that time i already admired his intellect and commitment to the constitution and rule of law. and believe me, he was an inspiration to young judges like me who aspired to do the same. but he's been an inspiration to so many judges and lawyers and law students over the past decades. i admired and respected justice scalia. and like many texans, i was proud of the fact he also seemed to love texas, believe it or not, for a virginian. he remarked once that if he didn't live in virginia he would -- quote -- "probably want to be a texan." i'd like to spend just a couple of minutes remembering this great man and the contributions he has made to our nation beyond
his incredible resume. justice scalia was a devoted husband of more than 50 years to maureen. he was a dedicated father to nine children and a grandfather to more than 30 grandchildren. but as i said earlier, he was not only a family man, which i'm sure he would have considered his most important job, he was a role model for a generation of lawyers, judges, and legal scholars, and those who love the constitution. interestingly about justice scalia, and perhaps he could teach all of us a little something these days, he was quick to build up relationships with people who had different views from his own and fostered an environment of collegiality and friendship on the court. it's interesting to read, as we learned earlier about his relationship with people with whom he couldn't have disagreed more on the supreme court on the key issues that the court
confronted, people like justice ginsburg, for example. we all know he was a gifted writer and possessed an infectious wit. but justice scalia's most important public legacy is his life's work and his call for us to return to our constitutional first principles. justice scalia strongly believed that words mattered, and i think that's one reason why he quickly became one of the most memorable writers on the court and one of the best in the court's entire history. he believed that the words written in the constitution mattered because that was the only thing that the states voted on when they ratified the constitution. those were the words with which the american people chose to govern themselves, and he tried for decades to give them force and to fight against an attempt to say that, well, we really don't have a written constitution. we have a living constitution that should be reinterpreted
based on the times when indeed the text had not changed one bit. his originally -- originalist interpretation of the constitution meant he viewed the cost as a place to interpret the law and what it meant. justice scalia was one of the most fervent advocates for the rule of law and a written constitution. on many instances he made the point, the important point that if the supreme court was viewed merely as a group of nine individuals making value judgments on how our country ought to be governed under our constitution, that the people may well feel that their values were equally as valid as those of the high nine on the potomac given life tenure and a seat on the texas supreme court. and it was his strict adherence to the text of the constitution
and not evolving value judgments over time that gave protection to our democracy. justice scalia was strongly committed to the separation of powers. this is so fundamental to the constitution that james madison didn't even think that we actually needed a bill of rights until the first congress, because he felt like the separation of powers and the division of responsibilities would be protection enough because they viewed the concentration of power, the opposite of separation of powers, as a threat to our very liberty. i think he said the very definition of tyranny was the concentration of powers. so he saw the separation of powers as nothing less than the most important guarantor of our liberty, the most important shield against tyranny. in one dissent, justice scalia wrote without a secure structure of separated powers, our bill of rights would be worthless.
i guess you'd have to say he's a madison pian and not a federalist by temperament and view. but this separation of powers could not be any more important at this point in our history because scarcely a month goes by when this administration has chosen to undermine this basic constitutional precept by exerting itself and claiming authorities which the constitution does not give the president. justice scalia understood what was at stake. he believed that every blow to the separation of powers harms our republic and liberty itself. as justice scalia wrote in a case in which the court unanimously struck down the president's violations of the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, he said we should therefore take every opportunity to affirm the primacy of the constitution's
enduring principles over the politics of the moment. he continued warning against -- quote -- "ago -- aggrandizing the presidency beyond its constitutional powers." that's what justice scalia did time and time again and that's what he reminded us about, the importance of the doctrine of separation of powers, adherence to the text of the constitution and not to make it up as you're going along or expressing value judgments that can't be related to the actual text and original understanding of the constitution. so, mr. president, the question arises when the president makes a nomination to fill the vacancy left by justice scalia's death, what is the constitutional responsibility of the united states senate? it is true under our constitution the president of the united states has a unique
role and the authority to make a nomination to fill this vacancy. but it's also true that the senate has an essential and unique role to play as well. the founding generation regarded the senate's role and the appointment process as -- quote -- "a critical protection against despotism. nothing less." that means the united states senate has a separate and unique role to play, and certainly a coequal role with that of the president in the process to fill vacancies on the court. we are not, and the constitution never comprehended that we would somehow just be a rubber rubber stamp for the president of the united states. i will know the president, president obama, would love to nominate somebody and have in his waning months of his term of office as he's heading out the door, perhaps fill this vacancy which in the case of justice scalia was filled for 30 years, far extending president obama's
term of office. but that's not what the united states senate is. we are a coequal branch of government, and we have an independent and separate responsibility from that of the president. he can nominate anybody he wants, but it's up to the senate and its collective wisdom whether to grant advice and consent. and when we say that, we mean if the senate did not play its unique role, liberty itself would be weakened and despotism strengthened. as i've said before, the american people can and should have a voice in the selection of the next supreme court justice. in the waning days of this presidential election year, after voters have already cast their ballots in primaries with republican candidates and democratic candidates and there is a caucus occurring even today
as i speak in nevada, i believe giving the american people a choice in who selects the next justice of the supreme court is very important. i think it elevates the -- what's at stake in this next election this november, and that means simply that this vacancy should not be filled at this time by this president. mr. president, i yield the floor. mrs. boxer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: mr. president, i came to the floor today because i am stunned. i just learned that the republicans have announced to the country that they won't even call a hearing should and when
president obama does his job and nominates a replacement for justice scalia. and we send our sympathy, heartfelt to his family. i don't know where the republicans have come up with this notion that this is the right thing to do. if you look at the strict constitutionalists, you know that they're reading the constitution, and unless they're phonies, this is what the constitution says. "the president shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and judges of the supreme court." now, where in this does it say
except in election years? as a matter of fact, we have acted 14 times in election years. mr. president, whoever is a strict constructionist should read the constitution. article 2, section 2, clause 2. i'm going to read it again. "the president shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of the senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and judges of the supreme court." it doesn't say, as senator cornyn said, oh, the president can nominate but nobody else has a job to do. oh, no. it says same sentence, -- "and with the advice and consent of the senate." to have such a press conference, as i understand -- i didn't see it myself but it's been reported to me that there has been an announcement that the republicans won't even hold a hearing, goes against this constitution.
i wouldn't be surprised if there is a lawsuit brought by the people of this country, 70% of whom believe that we have an obligation. we have an obligation. nowhere in the constitution does it say it's too late for the president to nominate. guess what? the republicans keep saying we need an elected president. well, i have good news for them. this president was elected twice and he's got about a year left. guess what? i'm not going to run again, but i'm here now. i want to work. i didn't take this job to have a year off and not worry about working in my last year. nowhere in the constitution does it say -- oh, and by the way, don't advise and consent if it's a democratic president in his second term. it does not say that. so if you consider yourself a strict constructist, then pay
attention to this. and i'm proud that several republicans on the other side said baloney, we don't go along with that. good for them, and more should do it. it doesn't say in the constitution you only advise and consent if it's a republican president, with a republican senate. again, the senate has repeatedly over the years considered supreme court nominees in both election years and in the final year of a president's term. justice kennedy who serves now, a fellow californian, was nominated by president reagan in 1987. i was over on the house side, i didn't have anything to do with it, but i sure watched it. and kennedy was confirmed by a democratic senate during reagan's last year in office. and my republican friends say oh, but this senator said this about it and that senator said
that and joe biden said it doesn't matter what people say, it's what we do. and 14 times in history, we have voted on in an election year. so my republican colleagues who suggest that this process cannot be done before president obama leaves office are fooling themselves. history has disproven them, and the constitution is going to chastise them. whoever says i want a dead constitution. read this. this is very clear. it absolutely is. so i guess i have the message for my republican friends here. pretty simple, pretty simple. do your job. do your job. if you're afraid to do your job, then do something else with your life. if you don't want to do your job
because you're worried that someone moderate may get through, then make your argument. if you want to vote no, vote no. but to hold a press conference and to say you won't even hold a hearing, it's outrageous. mr. president, every day in towns and cities across this country, americans show up for work, and they do their jobs. they don't call up their bosses and say, you know, i don't feel like doing this today. i'm healthy, i'm fine, i'm well, but you know what? i don't want to do my job. they would be fired. and they should be. do your job. you're elected to do your job. no, the american people, they show up for their jobs, they do their jobs. it's as simple as that. and you know what?
the justices of the supreme court, they show up and they do their jobs every day. justice scalia did it. they all do it. they hear cases. they write opinions. the supreme court is the last stop on the justice train. but to be able to function as our founding fathers in the united states constitution intended, they need a full bench with all nine justices. a supreme court with eight justices is not a functioning court. let's look at the republicans' hero, ronald reagan. we always hear them say, ronald reagan, i was proud to serve in the house during ronald reagan's term. i didn't agree with him on a lot of things, but guess what? i agreed with him on this. you know what he said? "i look forward to prompt hearings conducted in the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship.
i will do everything in my power as president to assist in that process." president ronald reagan, november 12, 1987. what did he say? did he get up and say oh, it's an election year -- which it was. no. no. kennedy was voted on in an election year, and president reagan made the case. this is what else he said. ronald reagan said -- "every day that passes with a supreme court below the full strength impairs the people's business in that crucially important body." let me say that again. ronald reagan, who was pushing for a vote on a supreme court justice in an election year, said the following -- "every day that passes with a supreme court below full strength impairs the
people's business in that crucially important body." now, i don't get it where the republicans are coming from. they're disregarding ronald reagan, their hero, they're disregarding the constitution that they say is their shining star of their being, which it should be for all of us, and they stand there today and blatantly announce they're not even going to hold a hearing on a nominee, before they even know who he or she is. what is that about? i am truly stunned. you know, i thought i've seen everything but i've never seen this. you show up, you do your job. now, i'm going to show you a few other quotes of people who are very important to this
conversation, and what they're saying about not moving forward. how about sandra day o'connor, what an incredible woman, appointed by ronald reagan, the first female ever appointed to the supreme court, a magnificent person, and a republican. what did she say? "i think we need somebody there now to do the job, and let's get on with it." she just said that ten days ago or less. is she a partisan? i don't think so. she is speaking from the heart. she is speaking from her soul. she is speaking from experience. she knows the court has important cases before it and we will be tied in knots if we don't have a court at full strength. here's what she shade again. republican sandra day o'connor,
esteemed member of the supreme court, a ronald reagan nominee -- "i think we need somebody there now to do the job, and let's get on with it." i'm going to show you two more quotes from scholars here. this is from the american constitution society. quote -- "a vacancy on the court for a year and a half" -- which is what the republicans want, at least a year and a half --" would mean many instances where the court could not resolve a split among the circuits. there would be the very undesirable result that the same federal law would have differing meaning in various parts of the country." that's the american constitution society. and then we have another quote i want to share with you. the director of the byron white center at the university of colorado. "it would essentially shut the
supreme court down for two years. it would be a monumental crisis for the development of the law and the need to resolve large legal questions." it would essentially shut down the court for two years. it would be a monumental crisis for the development of the law and the need to resolve large legal questions. now, mr. president, it isn't as if large legal questions aren't at stake. right now, the supreme court is set to look at some incredibly important cases that have real effects on our people. this isn't some argument in a salon. this is real stuff. the cases can't wait, and it doesn't matter what side you're on on these cases. they have to be resolved. how about voting rights? i don't think there would be a difference of opinion here in this chamber that this is what
makes this country great and special, the right to vote, the responsibility to vote. we have many states that have put forward voter i.d. laws. they need to be told whether they're fair or unfair, whatever side you come down on. we need a court to look at voting rights cases and see who the eligible voters are. affirmative action. they're going to reexamine that case. whatever side you're on, it has to be decided. workers' rights. the court will decide the impact of the ability of the union to represent millions of working americans. whatever side you're on, you may be on one side of it, there needs to be a decision. otherwise, you're going to have different states with different laws, and it makes no sense. this is one nation under god. that's why we have a u.s. senate
and a u.s. house and a u.s. president and a u.s. supreme court, because we're one nation, and these issues have to be decided. there's one on employee discrimination. how do people get their day in court if they're being discriminated against? it doesn't matter what side you're on. the fact is there needs to be a decision. women's health. there is a big case on women's health as to whether or not workers can get birth control. again, whatever side you're on, pro, con, there needs to be a decision. it's women, it's health care, it's voting rights, it's students. these cases have real consequences. so i'm going to conclude with one more chart that deals with the length of supreme court justices for the past 35 years. and here you see the list of the
various nominees, mr. president, some of them made it -- i think -- no, not all of these made it, a couple didn't. but here's the deal with these. o'connor waited 95 days. rehnquist 92. scalia 92. bork 109. kennedy, 113, souter 74. thomas 110. ginsburg 137. sotomayor 97, kagan, 118. under mitch mcconnell's plan, the republican plan that they laid out, you just heard me say, if you average up all of this, you get 102 days. that's the average. -- that it takes. under mcconnell's plan it would take 444 days, at best.
that's assuming everything goes perfectly well. it could take a lot longer, and what does this mean? anyone within the sound of my voice has heard this. justice delayed is justice denied. that is a fact. and it is used throughout the country. when we talk about the importance of making these decisions, when our constituents go to jury duty, what are they told? can you make this decision? can you come to this decision? because everyone deserves to have an answer. so, in conclusion, take a look at this. this is an abomination. this is the days we have seen in the last 35 years that it took
to confirm 14 of our justices, 14 of our justices were confirmed in election years since the beginning of our country. and this take takes us back to e civil war days, when we really a country divided. and this is what we really need to do now. with awful these decisions that -- with all of these decisions that are coming up, regardless of your stand on them, people deserve justice. so i'll conclude with the "do your job" chart, because that's what it comes down. i urge the people of this great country to call the republicans, every one of them, with three words "do your job." and if the person answering the phone, i don't know what you mean? say, do your job. let the process move forward on the supreme court justice. and if they say, well, we want
an elected president, what will be told to them is, we're fortunate. we have one, elected once but twice. more than enough time remains for him to do his job and more than enough time remains for us to do ours. republicans "do your job." i yield the floor. ms. klobuchar: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: i rise today to talk about the importance of filling the current vacancy on the supreme court of the united states. i appreciate the words of my colleague from california, and i'd also like to begin by saying that my prayers and thoughts are with the family and friends and supreme court colleagues of justice scalia. he was a great scholar who had friends in many places. i was just last week at the university of chicago law school, where i went to law school, and so many people had
stories, as he used to teach there, taught there for a long period of time, and they miss him very much. mr. president, the supreme court has the constitutional responsibility to weigh some of the most important issues facing the american people, from freedom of speech, to due process, to doing business in america. supreme court decisions have impacted and continue to impact the daily life of every citizen of this country. as one of the three pillars of our government, we value the court's distinctive insulation from public opinion. justices commit themselves to the law and to the constitution and not to politics or partisanship. americans need and deserve to have a functional and fully staffed supreme court. we cannot delay consideration of the next supreme court nominee. as my colleague just pointed
out, you would have to go back to the civil war to a time where a position, an important key position, on the supreme court of the united states was left open. you would have to go back to a time when it was left open for more than a year. you would have to go back to a time before we had planes, before we had automobiles, before we had washing machines -- you name it -- you have to go back to the civil war. delaying the confirmation of a new justice will prevent the court from issuing binding precedent and deny access to justice for americans. lower courts will be left with decisions, decisions will not be made in close cases, and that is why the constitution of the united states, the constitution of the united states says that the president shall -- shall -- nominate someone to the supreme
court. it doesn't say that he will wait for a year. it doesn't say that he can't do it in an election year. it says that he shall nominate someone. we have a lot of members of this great body that are lawyers. a lot of them i have heard quoting the constitution. a lot of them believe in strict interpretation of the words of the constitution. well, mr. president, the words of the constitution say, "the president shall nominate." and that the senate's job is to advise and consent. it says that it is the senate's job. it doesn't say that it is the senate's job to avoid things and to just go on tv and to run ads. no, it says that the senate has a job to do. the senate has a job to do. both the president and the senate have a constitutional duty to protect the supreme court's ability to function and dispense justice, not to tell
the supreme court what to do, not to dictate their decisions, but to make sure they are simply able to do justice. this means that they must be fully staffed and have the justices in place, and it also means that they should be funded. those will are our jobs. according to our constitution, the president replaces vacant seats on the supreme court. that duty does not end, as i noted, in a presidential year, just as the responsibilities of all senators in their states and in their nation do not end in an election year. president obama was elected to serve out his entire second term, not just the first three years. for 332 more days, the president is the democrati democraticallyd president of the united states. democratically elected, as in a democracy, as in how our democracy functions. he has an obligation to all americans to dutifully execute
his oath of office. the president has not yet announced a nominee to fill the current vacancy on the court. when he does, it will be the constitutional duty of each one of us to consider the nominee on his or her merits and then choose whether to vote "yes" or "no." i.t. reallit's really not that . it's what the kids learn what they are taught social studies and civic lessons when they are in elementary school. the american people who voted for us -- and also those who didn't vote for us -- expect us to do the jobs we were elected to do, regardless of the timing. a complete refusal to engage in this constitutionally required process before the president has even announced a nominee is dangerous for our system of governance. it defies the words of the constitution. this chamber would be neglecting a key constitutional duty if it
prevented a well-qualified nominee from serving on the supreme court for two terms. and, guess what? how do we figure out -- how do we if figure out if someone is well-qualified? we have hearings. that is what we have designee for decades now -- that is what we have been doing for decades now. that is how we advise. that is how we consent. that is how we do our duty under the constitution. and it is for that reason that i urge my colleagues to continue in the senate's bipartisan tradition of giving full and fair consideration to supreme court nominees. we have precedent, mr. president, for the senate performing this role in the final year of a presidency. most recently the senate confirmed justice kennedy, someone who is currently serving on the supreme court, a current member sit being on the supreme court, someone who makes decisions every day. when was he confirmed? he was confirmed in the last
year of ronald reagan's presidency. and guess what? the senate was controlled by democrats. so we had the exact opposite situation. now, we have a democratic presidency and we have a senate that is in the control of republicans. back then we had a republican president and a senate that was in the control of democrats. because people say, well what does history show us? what do we know? to me, that's the best example of hoamplet yo history. you know what happened? justice kennedy was confirmed on ronald reagan's nomination in a democratic senate in an election year unanimously -- unanimously. the senate has taken such action more than a dozen times in our nation's history, and there is no reason to abandon that precedent now. and i am talking here about when a justice, when there is a justice opening up during an
election year. you have that precedent, which i think is important. again, i think the most important press dernghts the -- precedent, the most important precedent for historians is what he said. you have to go back to the civil war to find a time when we left a vacancy on the supreme court open for a year. think about that. through world war i, through world war ii, before -- through huge turmoil in this country, we always made sure we had a fully staffed supreme court. it would be unprecedented to deny a supreme court nominee fair consideration in the united states senate. in the last 100 years, the senate has taken action on every supreme court nominee, regardless of whether the nomination was made in a presidential year. mr. president, it is now february, which gives us plenty of time to consider and confirm a nominee. let's go to that next.
like, oh, would we have the time to get this done? i would submit that we do. we have hundreds of days before us, and in fact the senate has taken an average of only 67 days. let's make it easier, two months, about two months. that's the average since 1975 from the date of the nomination to the confirmation vote -- two months. that means that if the president offers a nomination, say, in the month of march -- that sounds like a good month to have a nominee -- that nominee would receive a vote in the senate by memorial day. there's your two months. and if you even wanted to add a little time on, we would certainly do it by the 4th of july, a very good holiday for those that believe in the constitution and the words of the constitution. until we confirm a nominee, mr. president, the court is left with only eight justices.
a split decision will prevent the supreme court from making critical decisions and leave lower courts without precedent to follow. a major responsibility of the supreme court is to resolve disagreements among lower courts. a failure of the president or the senate to meet its constitutional obligations would cause the supreme court to be unable to fill its constitutional obligations. these supreme court justices aren't elected directly. they have lifetime appointments. their job is to be insulated from elections and politics, and that's why we have these strict and straightforward words in the constitution that say that the president shall nominate someone for the job. and they also say that the senate will advise and consent. we have those words in place in the constitution, in that incredibly important document that guides news this chamber every -- guides us in this chamber every single day just
for a situation like this one, just for a situation like these times. in closing, i remind my colleagues of the important work that the people have sent us here to do. yes, we have major disputes every day. that happens every day. we get into arguments about issues. there's political campaigns going on. but we have always at least followed the constitution. that is what this is about today. as soon as we have a nominee, as soon as the president exercises his constitutional duty and puts someone in place, we should follow the constitution and our long-standing traditions and the history of this country and uphold that duty by diligently considering the president's nominee to be the next supreme court justice, as a member of the judiciary committee, we must have the confirmation hearing,
was also discussed at thehich european council. we agreed we needed to press ahead with strengthening the e.u.'s external borders to back the new mission to disrupt the criminal gangs working between greece and turkey who are putting so many people's lives at risk. britain will continue to contribute and step up our contribution in all of these areas. turning to britain's place in europe, mr. speaker, i've spent the last nine months setting out the four areas where we need reform and meeting with all other 27e.u. heads of state and government to reach an agreement that delivers concrete reforms in all four areas. let me take each in turn. first, british jobs and business depend on being able to trade with europe on a level playing field, so we wanted new protections for our economy to safeguard the pound, to promote
our industries including our financial services industries, to protect british taxpayers from the costs of problems in the eurozone and to insure that we have a full say over the rules of the single market while remaining outside the eurozone, and we got all of those things. we've not just permanently protected the pound and our right to keep it, but we've insured that we cannot be discriminated against. responsibility for supervising the financial stability of the u.k. will always remain in the hands of the bank of england. we've insured the british taxpayers will never be made to bail out countries in the eurozone. we've made sure that the eurozone cannot act as a bloc to undermine the integrity of the free trade single market, and we've guaranteed that british business will never face any discrimination for being outside the eurozone. so, for example, our financial services firms, our number one services export employing over a million people, can never be forced to relocate inside the eurozone if they want to
undertake complex trades in euros just because they're based in the u.k. and these protections are not just set out in a legally-binding agreement, all 28 member states are also clear that the treaties would be changed to incorporate the protections for the u.k. as an economy that is inside the e.u. but outside the eurozone. we also agreed a new mechanism to enable non-eurozone countries to raise issues of concern, and we won the battle to insure this can be triggered by one country alone. of course, mr. speaker, none of these protections would be available if we were to leave the e.u. second, we wanted commitments to make europe more competitive, creating jobs and making british families more financially secure. again, we got them. europe will complete the single market in key areas that will really help britain. in services, making it easier for thousands of u.k. service-based companies like i.t. firms to trade in europe, in capital so u.k. start-ups can access more sources of finance
for their businesses and in energy, allowing new suppliers into our energy market meaning lower energy bills for families across the country. we have secured commitments to complete trade and investment agreements with the fastest-growing and most dynamic economies around the world including the usa, japan and china as well as our commonwealth allies, india, new zealand and australia. these deals could add billions of pounds and thousands of jobs to our economy every year. and, of course, they build on the deals we already have with 53 countries around the world through which britain has benefited from the negotiating muscle that comes from being part of the world's largest trading bloc. mr. speaker, of course, country after country has said to me that, of course, they could sign trade deals with britain, but they have also said that their priority would be trade deals with the e.u. by their nature, these e.u. deals would be bigger and better, and a deal with britain wouldn't even be possible until
we'd settled our position outside the e.u. so, mr. speaker, for those members who care about signing new trade deals outside the e.u., we would be looking at years and years of delay. last but by no means least on competitiveness, one of the biggest frustrations for british bids is the red tape ask bure bureaucracy. so we agree there will now be targets to cut the total burden of event u. regulation on business. this builds on the progress we've already made with the commission already cutting the number of new initiatives by 80%. and it means that the cost of e.u. red tape will be going down, not up. of course, if we were to leave the e.u. but ultimately achieve a deal with full access to the single market like norway, we would still be subject to all of the e.u.'s regulation when selling into europe. but with no say over the rules. as the former europe spokesman for the norwegian conservative party said, if you want to run europe, you must be in europe. if you want to be run by europe,
feel free to join norway in the european economic area. third, third, we wanted to reduce the very high level of migration from within the e.u. by preventing the abuse of free movement and preventing our welfare system from acting as a magnet for people to come to our country. after the hard work of the home secretary, we've secured new powers against criminals from other countries including powers to stop them from coming here in the first place and powers to deport them if they are already here. we agreed longer reentry bans for fraudsters and people who collude in sham marriages and an end to the, frankly, ridiculous situation where e.u. nationals can avoid british immigration rules when bringing their families from outside the e.u. mr. speaker, this agreement broke new ground with the european council agreeing to reverse decisions from the european court of justice. we also secured a breakthrough agreement for britain to reduce the unnatural draw that our
benefit system exerts across europe. we've already made sure that e.u. migrants cannot claim the new unemployment benefit, universal credit, while looking for work. those coming from the e.u. who haven't found work within six months can now be required to leave. and at this council we agreed that e.u. migrants working in britain can be prevented from sending child benefit home at u.k. rates. this would apply, first, to new claimants and then to existing claimants from the start of 2020. and we also established a new emergency brake so that e.u. migrants will have to wait four years until they have full access to our benefittings. mr. speaker -- benefits. mr. speaker, people said it was impossible to achieve real change in this area and that a four-year restriction on benefits was completely out of the question, and yet that is what we have done. and once, and once activated, once activated the emergency brake will be in place for seven years, so if it gips next
year -- begins next year, it will still be operating in 2024, and there will be people who won't be getting full benefits until 2028. mr. speaker, all along we have said people should not be able to come here and get access to our benefit system straight away. no more something for nothing, and that is what we have achieved. now, mr. speaker, i'm sure the discussion about welfare and immigration will, i'm sure, be intense. but let me just make this point. no country outside the e.u. has agreed full access to the single market without accepting paying into the e.u. and accepting free movement. in addition, our new safeguards lapse if we vote to leave the e. u., so we might end up with free movement but without these new protections. the fourth area where we wanted to make significant changes was to protect our country from further european political
integration and to increase powers for our national parliament. ever since we joined, europe has been on the path to something called ever closer union. it means a political union. we've never liked it, we have never wanted it, and now britain will be permanently and legally excluded from it. the text says that the treaties will be changed to make clear, and i quote: the treaty references to ever closer union do not apply to the united kingdom. so, mr. speaker, as a result of this negotiation, britain can never be part of a european superstate. the council also agreed that ever closer union, which has been referred to in previous judgments from the european court of justice, does not offer a legal basis for extending the scope of any provisions of the treaties or e.u. secondary legislation. mr. speaker, people used to talk about a multi-speed europe. now we have a clear agreement that not only are different
countries able to travel at different speeds, but they are ultimately able to head to different destinations too, and i would argue that is a fundamental change in the way this organization works. we've also strengthened the role of this house and all national pardon mements -- parliaments. we've already passed a referendum act to make sure no powers can be handed to brussels without the explicit con end of the british people -- consent of the british people, and now we can get together with other parliaments and block it with a red card. and we have a new mechanism, finally, to enforce the principle that as far as possible power should sit here in westminster, not in brussels. so every year the european union now has to go through the powers they exercise and work out which are no longer needed and should be returned to nation-states. in recent years we've also seen attempts to bypass our -- [inaudible] on justice and home affairs by
bringing forward legislation under different labels. the way u.k. authorities handle fraud, they would try it under the guise of e.u. budget legislation. the agreement at last week's council insures this can never happen again. mr. speaker, the reforms we've secured will be legally binding in international law and will be goes ited -- deposited as a treaty at the u.n. they cannot be unpicked without the agreement of britain and every other e.u. country. and as i've said, all 28 member states were also clear that the treaties would be changed to incorporate the protections for the u.k. as an economy outside the eurozone and our permanent exclusion from ever closer union. mr. speaker, our special status means that britain can have the best of both worlds. we will be in the parts of europe that work for us, influencing the decisions that affect us, in the driving seat of the world's biggest single market and with the ability to take action to keep our people safe, but we will be out of the parts of europe that do not work
for us, out of the euro, out of the eurozone bailouts, out of the passport-free/no borders area and permanently and legally protected from ever being part of an ever closer union. of course, there is still more to do. i'm the first to say that there are still many ways in which this organization needs to improve, and the task of reforming europe does not end with last week's agreement. but with the special status this settlement gives us, i do believe the time has come to fulfill another vital commitment this government made x that is to hold a referendum. so, mr. speaker -- [inaudible conversations] so, mr. speaker, i am today commencing the process set out under our reformation act to propose that the british people decide our future in europe through a referendum on thursday, the 23rd of june. the foreign secretary has laid in both houses a report setting
out the new settlement the government has negotiated. this fulfills the duty to publish information set out in section six of the european union referendum act, and as the cabinet agreed on saturday, the government's position will be to recommend that britain remains in a reformed european union. and, mr. speaker, mr. speaker, this is a vital decision for the future of our country, and i believe we should also be clear that it is a final decision. an idea has been put forward that if the country votes to leave, we could have a secondary negotiation and perhaps another referendum. mr. speaker, i won't dwell on the irony that some people who want to vote to leave apparently want to use a leave vote to remain -- [laughter] but that's an approach. [inaudible conversations] but such an approach, such an
approach also ignores more profound points about democracy, diplomacy and legality. this is a straight democratic decision. staying in or leaving and no government can ignore that. having a second renegotiation followed by a second referendum is not on the ballot paper. and for a prime minister to ignore the express will of the british people to leave the e.u. would not just be wrong, it would be undemocratic. on the diplomacy, the idea that other european countries would be realize to start a second negotiation is for the birds. many are under pressure for what they have already agreed. then there is the legality x i want to spell out this point for the house carefully, because it is important. if the british people vote to leave, there's only one way to bring that about, and that is to trigger article 50 of the treaties and begin the process
of exit. finish and the british people would rightly expect that that should start straightaway. let me be absolutely clear about how this works. it triggers a two-year time period to negotiate the arrangements for exit. at the end of this period, if no agreement is in place, then exit is automatic unless every one of the 27 other e.u. member states agrees to a delay. $and we should be clear that this process is not an invitation to rejoin, it is a process for leaving. sadly, mr. speaker, i have known a number of couples who have begun divorce proceedings, but i do not know of any who have begun divorce proceedings in order to renew their marriage vows. [laughter] now, i want to just -- let me explain. i want to explain what happens with section 50. we should also be clear, we
should also be clear what would happen if that deal to leave wasn't done within two years. our current access to the single market would cease immediately after two years were up. our current trade agreements with 53 countries around the world would lapse. this cannot be described as anything other than risk, uncertainty and a leap in the dark that could hurt working people in our country for years to come. and this is not some theoretical question, this is a real decision about people's lives. when it comes to people's jobs, it is simply not enough to say it will be all right on the night, and we will work it out. and i believe that in the weeks to come we need to properly face up to the economic consequences of a choice to leave. mr. speaker, i believe that britain will be stronger, safer and better off by remaining in a reformed european union. stronger because we can play a
leading role in one of the world's largest organizations from within, helping to make the big decisions on trade and security that determine our future. safer because we can work with our european partners to fight cross-border crime and terrorism. and better off because british business will have full access to the free trade single market, bringing jobs, investment and lower prices. mr. speaker, there will be much debate about sovereignty, and rightly so. to me, what matters most is the power to get things done for our people, for our country and for our future. leaving the e.u. may briefly make us feel more sovereign, but would it actually give us more power, more influence and a greater ability to get things done? if we leave the e.u., will we have the power to stop our businesses being discriminated against? no. will we have the power to insist that european countries share with us their border information so we know what terrorists and criminals are doing in europe? no, we won't. will we have more influence over
the decisions that affect the prosperity and security of british families? no, we won't. we are a great country, and whatever choice we make we will still be great. but i believe the choice is between being an even greater britain inside a reformed e.u. or a great leap into the unknown. the challenges facing the west today are genuinely threatening. putin's aggression in the east, islamic extremism to the south. in my view, this is no time to divide the west. with faith, with challenges to our way of life, our values and our freedoms, this is a time for strength in numbers. and, mr. speaker, let me end by saying this: i'm not standing for re-election. i have no other agenda, i have no other agenda than what is best for our country. i'm standing here telling you what i think. my responsibility as prime minister is to speak plainly about what i believe is right for our country, and that is
what i will do every day for the next four months. and i commend this statement to the house. [cheers and applause] >> thank you, mr. speaker. i would like to thank the prime minister for advance notice of this statement. it obviously took him a long time to write it, because i only received it at eight minutes past three this afternoon. the people, the people of britain now face an historic choice on the 23rd of june on whether to remain part of the european union or to leave. we welcome the fact that it's now in the hands of the people of this country to decide that issue. the labour party and the great union movement are overwhelmingly for staying in. because we believe -- because we believe that the european union has brought investment, jobs and protection for workers, su