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tv   Sen. Mc Connell News Conference  CSPAN  October 30, 2017 4:01pm-4:37pm EDT

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beginning tomorrow. as the senate opened today, the majority leader called on his colleagues to confirm qualified judges and not vote based on the nominees' religious beliefs. we'll show you mitch mcconnell's comments as we wait to hear from him live at the capitol. senator mcconnell: for the past eight years we had a president who chose nominees on the empathy standard, to find nominees who would favor certain grureps individuals over others. it's a great standard if you're the party in the case whom the judge has empathy for. it's not so great if you're the other person.
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senator mcconnell: thank you for joining us today. for eight years we had an administration that had a particular approach to judges that could best be described as the empathy standard. president obama said on a number of occasions that he wanted judges who had empathy for parties. well the problem with that, if you're not the party for whom the judge has empathy, you're in for a pretty rough ride this administration, the trump administration, has taken the approach, the rather quaint approach, that the job of a judge is to try to interpret the
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law as it's written. justice scalia used to say if you're not uncomfortable occasionally with the outcome you reach, you're not a very good judge. justice gorsuch said, judges don't wear red they don't wear blue, they wear black. and so we are this week going to circuit subjects. chairman grassley has done an extraordinary job of processing these judges and getting them out on the senate calendar and therefore available for us to move forward. and that's what we intend to do beginning this week. we often hear our democratic friends talking about the war on women. three of the four judges that will be before the senate this week are women. we are going to lead off with professor amy barrett at notre
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dame who is a nominee for the seventh circuit. professor barrett says faith is important to her, her faith is important to her, she's spoken freely about it. she's allowed to do that in this country, by the way. but she also understands the role of a judge, which is to not let personal beliefs dictate how cases are decided. my colleagues on the judiciary committee are here today and will discuss professor barrett's nomination and how democrats raised concerns about her religious faith during her hearings. with that, let me turn to our chairman, chuck grassley. senator grassley: thank you, leader. our country has benefited from leaders from a variety of religious faiths, our loyal leaders don't have to abandon their religious faith to hold public office. article 6 of the constitution,
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quote, no religious test shall be ever -- shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust in the united states. professor barrett is a brilliant legal scholar who earned the respect of colleagues and students from across the political spectrum. she's also a committed roman catholic and has spoken passionately about the role her faith plays in her life. this isn't inconsistent with being a federal judge. at her hearing, some of the comments and questions from my democratic colleagues crossed the line. we even heard a question about whether professor barrett considers herself a quote-unquote orthodox catholic. she wasal told that quote-unquote, the dogma lives loudly within her. these remarks were entirely
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inappropriate. at the beginning of the hearing i gai professor barrett the chance to -- i gave professor barrett the chance to clarify the meaning of an article she co-wrote as a law student 20 years ago which outside groups have misinterpreted. i wanted to allow her to set the record straight. here's what she said, quote, if there is ever a conflict between judges' personal conviction and the judge's duty under the rule of laws, it is never, ever permissible for that judge to follow their personal convictions in the decisions of a case rather than what the law requires, end of quote. that should be the end of this matter. but my democratic colleagues insisted on engaging in ugly, anti-catholic rhetoric. i want to express my sincere
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hope that my colleagues' behaviors won't discourage religious americans from seeking public office and committing to public service. you will see tomorrow that professor barrett will be confirmed as the newest judge on the seventh circuit. congressman young, senator young. senator young: thank you, chairman. thank you, leader. it's good to be with members, my colleague on the judiciary committee for this important press conference. we're joined today by three groups i'd like to quickly introduce. penny young nance representing concerned women for america, thank you for being here, penny. joshua mckay, representing the catholic bar association, thank you, sir. and professor mark rienzi, representing the becht fund for religious -- the beckett fund for religious liberty. as the u.s. senator for indiana it's a distinct honor to speak
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in support of amy coney barrett, a fellow hoosier nominated by the president to serve on the u.s. court of appeals for the seventh circuit. she's a mother of seven children a distinguished legal scholar at notre dame law school. she's clerked for justice antonin scalia. mpeccable. legal credentials. some of my colleagues on the left have made an issue not of her legal qualifications but instofede her catholic faith. i'll echo what leader mcconnell has said, we do not have religious tests for office in the united states of america. period. it's frankly concerning we're even having this conversation. i applaud everyone who has spoken up in defense of religious freedom throughout this process, including notre dame's president, reverend john jenkins who expressed deep concern with the line of
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questioning one of my colleagues pursued with professor barrett in her hearing before the judiciary committee. reverend jenkins put into words what i believe many of us were thinking when this colleague of ours said that dogma lives loudly within professor barrett and that's of concern. he wrote, quote, it is chilling to hear from a united states senator that this might disqualify someone from service as a federal judge, unquote. degree ma, he says, quote, lived loudly in the hearts of those who founded our nation as one where citizens could practice their faith freely and without apology, unquote. i happen to agree with reverend jenkins that the attempt to live faithle while upholding the law should command respect, not concern. i take the senate's role of appointing quality candidates to the federal courts very seriously. i also take very seriously our responsibility to safeguard
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religious freedom. so my vote for professor barrett's confirmation will be both a vote for an outstanding nominee and a vote for religious freedom. i now turn it over to penny young nance. pebny? -- penny. >> thank you. thank you so much for including me. let me also say thank you to all the other senators standing here today in support of professor amy coney barrett. in standing for her she stand for women of faith who are routinely mocked and derided for our beliefs. as the c.e.o. and president of concerned women for america, the largest public policy organization for women in the nation, i'm honored to support professor barrett as a more than qualified candidate for the seventh circuit court of appeals. in fact, no one has really questioned her qualifications because she's a standout
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professional and academic. however, i was disappointed to see in her confirmation hearing the inappropriate questioning of her faith, and by the waying her saw this also with the confirmation for o.m.b. it's a concerning trend. the christian dogma that a few find appalling embodies the best of humanity. it calls us to love others as we do ourselves, speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, attend to the widow and the orphan, and to care for those in prison. it teaches us to be truthful, honorable, and content. it teaches us to respect governmental authority and yes, it teaches judges to be impartial and to love justice. these character traits should be celebrated in any judicial
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nominee, religious or not. for any senator who chooses to vote against professor barrett based on her religious beliefs, i would suggest that you can do that but it says more about you han it says about her. democrats should support professor barrett and confirm her with their most sincere apologies. i'm grateful to be here. thank you. >> thank you, senators, for this opportunity to be here today. my name is joshua mckay and i represent the catholic bar association as its president. this is a national organization of catholic legal professionals. when the catholic bar association was established there was concern among the founding members about growing intolerance to catholic professionals serving in public office.
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sadly, our fears were confirmed during the recent senate confirmation hearing of notre dame law professor amy barrett. despite a distinguished legal and academic career, certain member of the senate judiciary committee launched an unfair attack to discredit professor barrett because of her catholic faith. while i watched this confirmation hearing my heart sank. before my eyes flashed a vision of a nation in which the ruling elite through an arbitrary and subjective standard may dictate the degree to which it is acceptable for a person of faith to be religious and still be qualified for public office. i saw a country in which my children who are being raised catholic may be disqualified from participating in the civic loof of their loved -- beloved nation for their faith. is this a vision of a vibrant, free, united states of america that respects the rich and diverse religious pluralism of its citizens? it is not. the attack on professor barrett
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was not just inappropriate and likely unconstitutional personal attack against her and her catholic faith but also an attack against any person of faith who takes his or her convictions seriously. and aspires to serve the people of this great country. we ask the senate to take a stand and make clear that all citizens, regardless of their faith background or lack thereof are to be judged on their professional qualifications to serve not on their religious affiliations. thank you. >> thank you, senators. the constitution forebids the government from imposing religious tests. under our constitution we are all free to serve. to be evalue wate on our own individual merits, rather than our religious beliefs that rule goes for catholics and for jews an for atheists and for muslims and for everyone else.
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professor barrett happens to be catholic but the principle is much, much broader. when some said that democratic congressman keith ellison who is muslim should not permitted to take his oath of office on a koran, we said that was wrong and a violation of the no religious test clause. religious tests were wrong and unconstitutional then, and they are wrong and unconstitutional now. the arguments and suggestions made today against a highly qualified catholic nominee that her religious beliefs are somehow incompatible with government service could be used against people of any faith. they are terrible echos of tired and bigotted arguments that for centuries supported religious tests in england and those were anti-catholic, anti-presbyterian, anti-quaker, ti-methodist, anti-jewish, anti-atheist religious tests. similar tests were used to keep jews and atheists from serving
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under state and colonial laws. our constitution puts those arguments in the dust bin of history. so that here everyone is free to serve and no one is excluded because of her religious beliefs. whatever your views on religion, we should all reject any effort to impose religious tests for public office. anymore. that's what the constitution demands, and it is also the right thing to do. we are all better off when everyone is free to serve. thank you. em >> majority leader mcconnell, thank you for teeing up these important judicial nomination this is week. the outcome of these votes is not in doubt. thanks to former majority leader harry reid who because of his abuse of the senate rules created a mechanism whereby 51 senators can vote to confirm
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these nominees and so they will be confirmed by the end of this week. and we think our democratic colleagues understand that which is why they have so desperately reached for any excuse not to vote to confirm well-qualified people like amy barrett for the circuit court of appeals. but we know that this is one of the main reasons why president trump was elected over hillary clinton in the first place because of the importance of these nominees and the service of these judges from the supreme court down to the court of appeals down to the district courts. but unfortunately, we have seen a concerted effort to drag out the confirmation process, even among judges who openly get 70, 80 votes and so there is no real effect on the outcome, it's only to burn more time on the senate calendar, to prevent this president the opportunity to have his team serving in his administration. and that includes judges as
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well. but we're determined not to stand for that and that's why we are here standing together to say these four judges will be confirmed by the end of this week and there are many more that will be voted out of the judiciary committee over the coming weeks and months that will be confirmed to fill all the vacancies on the federal ourt left for president trump. senator hatch. senator hatch: as former chairman of the judiciary committee and chairman of the finance committee today, i have to say that we stoop pretty low if we start to raise questions of religious belief before somebody can serve on the federal judiciary. now i hope that that type of questioning will hit the dust bin of history where it belongs. amy barrett is a very qualified
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person. she should not be disqualified because she has a firm religious belief. bad if nk it's pretty we say to people who are really good people that because of your religious belief you cannot sthoverpb federal judiciary. if we go down that route, then can you imagine all the other issues that can be raised of -- about various people and how difficult it would be to pick federal judges. there's prejudice involved here. it's hard for me to understand why someone some of my colleagues feel the way they do on these issues. i think a lot of this has been driven, people say roe v. wade is established law. it is. it's hard for me to understand, it's not hard for me to understand why that particular case has created so much
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division in the law because there was no justification whatsoever. for deciding that case that way. but it's been decided. and all i can say is, that case shouldn't stop somebody from serving on the federal judiciary either way. to make a long story short, amy bare vet a very highly qualified woman that has great experience, somebody we would want on the federal bench if we had any brains at all. i really resent the application of a religious test because she's devout in her faith. you can be devout in your faith and still uphold the law, even sometimes when you disagree with the law. as a judge less than the supreme court thofpblee supreme court you need to uphold the law as well. under most circumstances. so i'm proud of my colleagues
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for being willing to stand up and i think it's time that we get rid of this type of thinking. and make sure that this type of thinking does not prevent qualified, outstanding people from serving on the federal judiciary, which is a benefit to all of us. >> there was a time when anti-catholic big tricould regularly be heard in the halls formerress, a time where leaders of the klan were treated as respected members of the senate. senator cruz: a time where blaine amendments were being adopted across the country explicitly as an effort to bar catholics. to erect legal barriers to catholics being accepted in our
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society. i think a great many of us had hoped we had put those dark days behind us. that that sorry chapter in our history had been relegated to the history books. and yet we are seeing a re-emergence of that same hostility to faith and that same hostility to the catholic church. the previous administration persecuted the little sisters of the poor in a way that was truly indefensible. and today in this senate, we have seen repeatedly nominees grilled not for their qualifications, not for their ecords, but for their faith. we saw professor barrett, a distinguished professor at notre dame, someone whose credentials are impeccable, grilled by
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democratic senators, one democratic senator demanding, are you an orthodox catholic? with the obvious presumption being if the answer were yes, you're not fit to serve on the federal bench. another democratic senator calling out the dogma lives trongly in this one. almost as if we've gone back decades in this institution's history. we saw another nominee being questioned by the runner up for the democratic presidential nominee in this instance the nominee is an evangelical christian and having his views about salvation, what does your faith teach about salvation? those questions have no place in a senate hearing. i recognize that today's democratic party is not the party of j.f.k. anymore. today's democratic party is much
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more secular. happily embraces atheists. but if the message of democrats is catholics need not apply if the message of democrats is evangelical christians are unfit to serve in office if the message of democrats are, it's ok if you serve so long as you are not, in the word of one democratic senator a quote, orthodox catholic. and that is a sad, sad testament to where this body is. now, i hope and believe we're not there. i hope and i want to believe that these are aberrations. but we have an opportunity, we're going to have four judicial nominees before the senate this week. there's an opportunity for every democrat voting to decide where he or she stands, are you part of establishing an unconstitutional religious test contrary to article 6 of the constitution? are you part of saying the
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democratic pear does not welcome orthodox catholics? or will you stand for religious liberty and religious faith? it is my hope that professor barrett will be confirmed 100-0. based on what we've seen i don't think that is likely but i do think we're seeing a test. but it's not a test of the nominees, it is a test of the nited states senate. >> 179 years ago this past friday we marked the 179th anniversary of an executive order issued by the governor of missouri, who wrote that the mormons must be driven from this state and if necessary exterminated. interestingly enough that executive order wasn't lifted until the 1970's and remained a lasting testament to religious big triand the fact that it occurred, that it has its seeds in some of our history. senator lee: this was something
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at the founder of the mormon church, joseph smith derek cried when he said civil magistrates should have the ability to punish guilt but never suppress the freedom of the soul. as a lifelong member of the church of jesus christ of latter day saints i'm a believer in the establishment clause and the prohibition of any kind of religious test in government. this is not an issue that's shared only by republicans. this is not a left versus right issue. as christopher gruber, president of princeton university who himself like professor barrett served as a law clerk on the u.s. supreme court, only unlike professor barrett, he served as a law clerk to justice stevens , he said that the questions directed at professor barrett have no place in sthetting and they don't.
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because the fact is her religious beliefs or religious affiliation, they have nothing to do with her qualifications to serve as a federal appellate court judge. in some respects, the way they were asked was even worse than somebody just asking whether she was a catholic. in this setting, they weren't just asking, are you a catholic? they were asking, do you actually believe that stuff? do you believe the doctrine of your church? do you believe it deeply, sincerely? suggesting that if so that was somehow a problem this too is a problem. we cannot allow it to persist. i look forward to confirming professor barrett to the court of appeals this week. thank you. >> it is one of the grand issues of our day that amazingly enough is unresoed, can you have a faith in america and live it? are we going to be a nation where you can have freedom of worship or if you want to worship over in that place, at
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that time and no one sees it, that's ok but if you bring in the public square that's a problem, that seems to be the primary issue of debate. senator lankford: we don't have freedom of worship we have the free exercise of religion. you can have a faith and hi your faith and it not get in the way of your public service or your public enterprise. as odd as it may seem this i thought was an issue that was resolved in the 1960's when a president named j.f.k. was running. when john kennedy stood in front of a group of protestant ministers and said if i run in this election and lose i'll happily return to the senate but if i fail to be elected because of my faith, 40 million meshes have lost their right to be president the day they were baptized this equestion we're resolving this week among many things dealing with judges is
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resolving the issue of the flee exercise of religion do americans need not apply to be judges, to be in public office, to be able to serve in the federal government if they haven't sr. a faith and live their faith? or can we as we have said for more than 200 years, you can have any faith, live your faith, or have no faith at all and still be a great american. i'm shocked that this is still a conversation in our nation that we've become a nation that's become afraid of people of faith. you can have a faith and you can have a name on your faith just don't ever let anyone see it. that's not who we are. that's not who we should be. i'm glad we're moving forward on amy barrett's nomination to be able to say, let's evaluate people based on their qualifications, not based on their private faith. >> i think we've heard about amy barrett, about her qualifications and who she is we've heard wonderful things about her. i think of all the endorsements she's had the best one, the one
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that means most to me is the endorsement of all clerks. she was a clark for -- a clerk for scalia. all of them know what she does and know her well. that was the right thing and when this whole issue came up, think it's outrageous but i want to mention one thing from last week you may have forgotten about. mr. inhofe: we had a guy, scott paul, from our state of oklahoma. he was one who was nominated not by president trump by by president obama. and in -- ended up getting 79 votes out of 100 votes. you know he was qualify. but they still had to go through 30 hour to show, now what's the reason for that? the reason is just to be obstructionist. i hope we're seeing now that this isn't going to work and i look forward to voting for amy barrett. she'll be a great justice.
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anybody have questions for senator grassley or anyone up here on this topic. >> i have a question about a different catholic named paul manafort. >> that's why i said this topic. anyone have questions on this topic? >> for any of the senators up there, you're saying you can't have a religious test, how do you square that with your support for the person who said a muslim shouldn't serve in office. >> just because you're a member of a political party doesn't mean you agree 100% what some other office holder or candidate for office feels. i would disagree with that statement. >> we apologize about that.
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we have a crew there to get the rest of the comments. we'll show that later in our program schedule. want to let you know about a hearing coming up in about half an hour, testimony from defense secretary james mattis and secretary of state rex tillerson on military authorization powers. they're speaking to the senate foreign relations committee. we'll have that live beginning at 5:00 p.m. looks like sarah sanders earlier today answered questions about the indictment of paul manafort and denied that the charges point to wrongdoing by the trump campaign in 2016. here's part of what she has had to say. reporter: when the president says, why aren't crooked hillary and the dems the focus, is he
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saying special investigator mueller should be foe cushion odd them and is going to rule out firing robert mule her sarah sanders: -- robert mueller? sarah: today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity. the real collusion scandal as we said several times before has everything to do with the linton campaign, fusion g.p.s. there's clear collusion to spread disinformation and smear the president and influence elections. we've been saying from day one there's no evidence of trump-russia collusion and nothing in the indictment today changes that at all. reporter: george papadopoulos -- sarah: he has nothing to do with the activities of the campaign it has to do with his failure to tell the truth that has nothing to do with the campaign.
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>> but it is the clearest evidence of ties between the campaign and russia. sarah: there are no activities, most of these took place well before the campaign ever even existed. >> see all of today's briefing tonight, 8:00 eastern, here on c-span. we'll take you live now back to the l.b.j. room at the capitol, senators talking about judicial nominees. reporter: do you fear that this could become a new normal for questions like this? are there any repercussions for senators who question nominees in this way? senator cornyn: that's why we're here today, to say this should not become the new normal where someone's deeply held faith disqualified them from any position in government. but i would suggest that the questions ought to be directed toward the senators who seem to make that test which as we've all said here today is
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nconstitutional. >> would you take a question about manafort. senator cornyn: we'll have time for that. we'll be glad to talk to you on a one-on-one basis and end the press conference. thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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>> the senate this week taking up judicial nominations, follow that debate on c-span2. reporters tried to ask questions about today's indictment of paul manafort and two other trump campaign officials. tomorrow, testimony from google, facebook and twitter on russia's use of social media and its influence in the 2016 election. that hearing taking place in front of the senate judiciary subcommittee and more from those same social media executives on wednesday as they testify in front of the senate intelligence committee at 9:30 and at 2:00 p.m. before the house intelligence committee. see both hearings live on

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