Senate Democrats Plan to Filibuster Gorsuch Nomination CSPAN March 23, 2017 12:34pm-1:00pm EDT
filibuster judge gorsuch's nomination. here is what he had to say. >> now on the subject i wish to speak about this morning at length and that is judge gorsuch. well, mr. president, i've had the opportunity these past three days to watch judge neil gorsuch in the judiciary committee, review his credentials and record on the tenth circuit and before that. i particularly like to recognize the outstanding work done by every democratic member of the judiciary committee. they were just outstanding in questioning judge gorsuch despite his lack of candor and desire to answer. i would like to particularly call out our exceptional ranking member senator feinstein who has done a wonderful job leading the committee. i've thought long and hard about this nomination and what it means for the supreme court and
the future of our country. what is at stake is considerable. the decisions we make in the senate over the next few weeks about judge gorsuch as any supreme court nominee will echo through the lifetime tenure of that judge through a generation of americans. discussions of the supreme court can get wonky and technical, cannons of interpretation, what is at stake however is not at all abstract. it is real, it is concrete. for americans whose lives, health, happiness and freedoms are on the line at the supreme court. closely decided decisions recently have meant the difference between the ability to marry the person you love or not. the ability to have your right to vote protected or not. the ability to make personal
choices about your own personal health care or not. the supreme court matters a great, great deal. it matters for workers who want to protect both their lives an their jobs, for employees who need to be able to seek redress for discrimination, for parents who want their kids to get a fair shake in the education system. it is with all this in mind that i have come to a decision about the current nominee. after careful deliberation, i have concluded that i cannot support judge neil gorsuch's nomination to the supreme court. his nomination will have a cloture vote. he will have to earn 60
votes for confirmation. my vote will be no. and i urge my colleagues to do the same. to my republican friends who
think that if judge gorsuch fails to reach 60 votes we ought to change the rules, i say if this nominee cannot meet 60 votes -- president obama's nominees and gorge bush's last two nominees, the answer isn't to change the rules, it's to change the nominee. this morning i would like to lay out the reasons why i'll be voting no on this nomination. first, judge gorsuch was unable to sufficiently convince me that he would be an independent check on a president who has shown almost no restraint from executive overreach. second, he was unable to convince me he would be a mainstream justice who could rule free from the biases of politics and ideology. his career in judicial record suggest not a neutral legal mine but someone with a deep-speeded
concerted ideology, he was groomed by the federalist society and has not shown one inch of difference between his views and theirs. an finally, he is someone who almost instinctually favors the powerful over the weak, corporations overworking americans. there could not be a worse time for someone with those instincts. judge gorsuch's opportunity to disabuse us of all these objections was in the hearing process, but he declined to answer question after question after question with any substance. absence a real judicial philosophy all we have to judge the judge on is his record. first, mr. president, i want to raise the first issue i raise,
our democracy requires a judge willing to rule against this president. this administration seems to have little regard for the rule of law. and is likely to test the constitution in ways it hasn't been challenged in decades. it's absolutely the case that this supreme court will be tried in ways that few courts have been tested since the earliest days of the republic when constitutional questions abounded. the president himself has attacked individual judges and the credibility of the judiciary at large. the president attacked the three-judge panel of the ninth circuit and said if they didn't decide with him, they would be responsible for the next terrorist act. i have never, never, heard any president in my lifetime or read about any president in recent history who dare do that.
it requires a strong, we are in unchartered territory with this president and with judicial independence. it requires a strong independent backbone. judge gorsuch has shown none. senators on the judiciary committee rightly asked judge gorsuch direct questions about this issue. i did so myself in my meeting with the judge. and while the judge repeatedly asserted his independence he could not point to anything in his record to guarantee it. judge gorsuch or for the judiciary myriad platitudes of this point, no man is above the law, he said. he said he was disheartened by the president's attacks on the judiciary. the president for his sake said that judge gorsuch didn't mean him. and everyone left it at that. if judge gorsuch had an ounce of
courage, had shown a scintilla of an ability to be independent he would have said no mr. president, mr. trump i did mean you, instead he just tells us in general he is demoralized, disheartened. telling us is not the same as showing us, he is asking us to take him at his words but his record suggests he is someone long -- to assertions of broad presidential power. that leads me to my second point mr. president, that judge gorsuch was unable to convince me that we would be a neutral judge free of ideology and bias. this was an opportunity for judge gorsuch to explain his record, to tell us how he thinks and how his judicial philosophy does not fundamentally advantage the powerful.
instead, we got binalities and platitudes. he refused to answer general questions on dark money and politics, lgbt rights, the constitutionality of a muslim ban. he couldn't answer it. i just said is a law that bans all muslims unconstitutional, he countries even answer that. he refused to say whether he agreed with supreme court cases like brown v. board or roe v. wade, griswold v. connecticut. justice roberts and alito agreed. a section of the constitution
that prohibits -- of foreign officials, instead of an umpire calling balls and strikes in baseball, what we saw was a well trained expert in dodge ball. my friends, the ranking member of the committee said it best, what worries me she told the nominee is that you have been very much able to avoid any specificity like no one i have ever seen before. let me repeat, there is no legal standard, rule or even logic for failing to answer questions that don't involve immediate and specific cases that are or could come before the court. it is evasion. just evasion, plan and simple. and it belies a deeper truth about this nominee. if anyone doubts that judge gorsuch doesn't have strong
views, that thinks he would be a neutral judge calling balls and strikes as judge roberts once put it, just look at the way he was chosen. he was supported and pushed forward by the heritage foundation and federalist society and groomed by billionaire conservatives, president trump simply picked someone off their list. president trump sought advice an consent from the federalist society instead of from the united states senate. now does anyone think the federalist society would choose someone who just called balls and strikes? does anyone think they would put on their list a neutral moderate judge? when they haven't ever supported anyone but judicial conservatives almost all hard right judicial conservatives in
their history? the federalist society has been dedicated for a generation to influence the courts to favor corporations and special interests. if anyone doubts that judge gorsuch could be an activist judge with views as chewing the interests of average people, look at how he was selected. by a group that is not neutral. a group that has been dedicated to changing the judiciary and placing activist, hard right judges on the bench. and, now that he's nominated, look at how much money dark secret undisclosed money, a good bet from corporations, the very corporations judge gorsuch has defended his whole career.
if he were so neutral would they be spending this money? i doubt it. anyone groomed by the federalist society will not call balls and strikes. their views are best foretold by the eyedology of the people who groom them, to say judge gorsuch has no ideology is absurd. he just won't admit it to the american people. to say he is neutral in his views is belied by his history of his college days and his own record. he even tried to deny it. he repeated the hollow assertion that judges don't have parties or politics. he said there are no democratic judges or republican judges, but if that were true we wouldn't be here, would we? if the senate were merely
vaulti evaluating based on their merits, he would be sitting on the supreme court, we all know why, we held this supreme court seat open for over a year in hopes they would have the opportunity to install someone hand picked by the heritage foundation and the federalist society to advance the goal of big money interests entrenching their power in the courts. they don't even mind that this investigation is moving forward under a cloud of an fbi investigation of the president's campaign. the republicans held the supreme court seat open for a year under a democratic president who was under no investigation. but now are rushing to fill the seat for a president whose campaign is under investigation. it is unseenly and wrong to be moving so fast on a lifetime
appointment in such circumstances. finally, mr. president, judge gorsuch came into this hearing with a record that raises deep concerns about whether he would consider fairly the plight of the average citizen against powerful interests. i saw a judge who repeatedly sided with insurance companies who wanted to deny disability benefits to employees, i saw a judge who on the issue of money and politics seems to be in the same company as justices thomas and scalia, willing to restrict the most common sense contribution limits. in the hearings, judge gorsuch did nothing to explain his philosophy. did nothing to assuage those
concerns. we'll just have to go by his record. a record that shows time and time again his rulings favor the already powerful overordinary americans. judge gorsuch ruled against a teacher who was advised by doctors not to return to college campus during flu epidemic lest she put her life at risk. she was fired for taking sick leave. judge gorsuch voted to uphold that dismissal. this decision to protect her health cost my mom her job. when judge gorsuch issued his ruling he didn't think about the impact. the law called for reasonable accommodation for those who are disabled. judge gorsuch ignored the human cost. judge gorsuch ruled against truck driver who had to make a
similar choice between his employer and his life. he told me a story of being stuck in the cab of a tractor-trailer with frozen brakes, no heat, temperatures outside dipping to 27 below 0. he had a choice, leave the trailer with broken brakes and drive the cab to safety or stay in the trailer and freeze to death. he radioed his company to explain his predicament. they told him the cargo was the most important thing. rather than risk the lives of other motorists by driving the trailer with frozen brakes, he struggled to unhitch his trailer and drive his cab to safety, returning later for it once he was not at risk of dying in the cold. for that, his company fired him. he sued. seven judges heard this case as
it went through appeal. only one, judge gorsuch in dissent ruled against him. judge gorsuch used an exceptionally technical and illogical reading of the statute to reach the absurd conclusion that mr. madden was obligated to risk his life to protect his cargo. mr. madden said that judge gorsuch's nomination to the supreme court, quote, gives him pause for concern because he quote demonstrated a willingness to artfully diminish the humane element that encompassed this issue. judge gorsuch also ruled against the parent of a severely autistic child, luke, who sought with individuals with disabilities act guarantees him the right to education that met his needs. his father is testifying before the committee today. their story is powerful.
judge gorsuch ruled luke was not entitled to attend a specialized school because he was able to make more than bare minimum progress in the normal educational system. just yesterday, mr. president, just yesterday the supreme court unanimo unanimously including justices aledo and so many others who are so conservative, rejected judge gorsuch's interpretation of the idea. the court held that a student offered an educational program providing merely more than the minimum progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.
mr. president who he put on the bench, their basic judgment matters. while i do not think that the personal views and experiences should bear on the decision of day to day cases there is a reason we don't program computers to decide cases. we do not want judges with ice water in their veins. what we want and need are judges who understand the litigants before them and bring at least a modicum of yumen judgment into the courtroom. you can call this empathy or mercy. i think it falls in the category of common sense. it's common sense that necessarily comes from each person's own unique life experience. even judge gorsuch acknowledged this when he told the committee i am not an algorithm yet he wouldn't tell us as a human a nonalgorithm he would uniquely approach a case.
when it comes to the application of the law that empathy, that mercy, that humane element of common sense as the truck driver put it, that is the most important judicial trait of them all because ultimately the law is abstract but the people and situations are real. the task of the judge is to apply those abstract legal doctrines to very humane, sometimes very messy situations. it's a hard thing to do to bring fairness and justice to a world that's too short on both. i'm reminded, mr. president, by the words spoken by porsche, the great lawyer in the merchant who spoke of the blessedness and necessity of mercy in implying the law. he said the quality of mercy is
not strained. upon the place beneath it is twice blessed. it blesses him that gives and him that takes. it is mightiest and the mightiest becomes the throne of monarch. his scepter shows the force of temporal power, attribute to awe and majesty. mercy is above this sway. it is enthroned in the hearts of kings. it is an attribute to god himself. judge gorsuch, mr. president, told us that he is not god and
that is true. but his humanity does not excuse him from the attribute of mercy. instead, his humanity should require it. mr. president, alphonse madden sought the mercy of the law. the family sought mercy of the law. luke, the autistic child whose school was failing him sought the mercy of the law. and the man who had the power to see plain sense who could rule in their favor and right the wrongs that had been done to them as other judges did in each of those cases, that man, judge neil gorsuch said no. i am voting no on gorsuch for alphonse madden and workers across the country. for the wong family and for others who don't want to choose between their health and providing for their children.
and for the perkins family who love their children just as they are and want them no less than the opportunities afforded to every other child in america. the american people deserve someone who sees average litigants as more than incidental consequences of precedent when that precedent produces an absurd result, whose view of the law is not so cold so as to ring out every last drop of humanity and common sense it requires only the bare minimum of judicial decency to rule the right way in the cases i mentioned. and judge gorsuch did not. that's all the evidence my colleagues should need to vote no. and i urge them and will urge them in the days ahead to do so. mr. president, i yield the
floor. and that was chuck schumer announcing the democratic plans to filibuster the nomination of judge neil gorsuch. elsewhere house republicans continue to negotiate changes on the health care law replacement. a vote on the measure is possible later today. you can watch that action on house live on our companion network. back here in room 216 of the senate office building senate judiciary committee is on break for votes. you can see the chairman of the committee sitting there reading his notes for the day while he waits for his fellow senators to come back. committee members are hearing from outside witnesses today in favor and opposed to the nominee. this follows two very full days, 20 hours of questioning judge gorsuch himself. you can watch that testimony