tv Senators Menendez Grassley and Leahy on Supreme Court Nominations CSPAN March 3, 2016 8:48am-9:22am EST
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house this morning, 2012 presidential candidate and former massachusetts governor mitt romney weighs in on the race. we will take you live to the university of utah in salt lake city, 11:30 eastern on c-span3. >> the annual conservative political action conference kicked off yesterday in harper, md.. this afternoon we will take you there live as wayne lapierre addresses the group at 1:00 p.m. on c-span3 and c-span.org. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell and judiciary committee chairman chuck grassley met with president obama tuesday while they reaffirm they would not hold hearings for president obama's supreme court nominee. yesterday's several senators took to the floor to speak on the issue.
here is a look. >> i appreciate the distinguished ranking member of the judiciary committee for giving us this time. i agree on the issue of the legislation before us but i felt compelled to come to the floor to speak about the vacancy in the united states supreme court. and i rise to support this president's obligation, any president's obligation, to name a supreme court nominee to fill a vacancy no matter when the vacancy occurs, the election year or not. to fulfill his or her constitutional duty and eminently qualified nominee. all logic, all reason and the constitution itself dictates that every president has the
duty to do so under any interpretation of constitutional law. likewise, we should expect the senate to do its job can send that to the judiciary committee, holds the nomination on the floor and take a vote. we are not talking about a vague clause that invite interpretation. we are talking about a clear and concise clause, article 2 section 2, shall nominate and with a consent of the senate, shall appoint judges of the supreme court. it does not say except in an election year. it does not say except when it does not suit the political agenda of the majority party in the senate. it does not say no appointment can be made in the final year of a president's term.
it does not say it can arbitrarily and preemptively juice to obstruct the president's responsibility to make appointments. the point is the constitution is clear. in the last hundred years the senate has taken action on every supreme court nominee regardless whether the nomination was made in a presidential election year. this goes far beyond a supreme court vacancy. this goes to the very heart of the constant and continuous attacks this president has had to endure. for morgan seven years, some republicans have time and time again questioned the legitimacy of this president, from his selection beginning with the legitimacy of his birth certificate to accusing the president of lawlessness, having a republican member of congress out liars during the state of the union, questioning his
legitimate authority in his final year in office to fill the vacancy left by the death of justice antonin scalia. it begs the question why this president is being denied the opportunity to fulfill his constitutional obligation. why our constitutional standards backed by history and precedent being questioned for this supreme court nominee. if we were to rely on pure logic and simple consistency the question to ask is what our friends on the underside denied a president of their own party the right to make that appointment? i think not. this is another validation of their strategic decision seven years ago at a republican retreat to make barack obama a 1-term president and obstructed his present at every turn and claim political victory for
their own misguided inaction and refusal to govern. what is most astonishing is that they claim the constitution is carved in stone, that it is undeniable and impervious to interpretation, and yet somehow they can't completely ignore what it clearly states and obstruct this president's ability to govern. i say to my friends on the other side this president was elected twice to served two full terms. it has only been seven years. it is time to accept it and move away from obstructionism and on to governance with the president and i have differences on certain policies the we are in complete agreement that he should not be denied the ability to fill this vacancy on the court. democrats did not deny president reagan the ability to confirm justice kennedy in an election year and the republicans should not deny this president the same
ability under the same circumstances. the decency and respect for the constitution to let the unambiguous wisdom of article 2 section 2 clause 2 to determine our actions today as we did then. let's stop the political posturing, let the president fulfill his constitutional responsibility and the senate fulfills its advise and consent role. let as fulfil one of the most basic and solemn duties we have, have a hearing and take a vote. the american people deserve a full the functioning supreme court. is a bipartisan tradition of giving full and fair consideration to supreme court nominees. even when a majority of the senate judiciary committee has not supported the nominee the committee has still send the nominee to the full senate for a floor vote. it should be noted that at no time since world war ii has the
court operated with fewer than nine justices because of the senate simply refusing to consider a nominee. every day when i come to work i ask the supreme court and the words say how who equal justice under law. equal justice under law. the judicial bench to be fully functional. when we have a supreme court deadlocked on the decision, the decision in the lower courts stand and the highest court in the land has no value. there is a difference between different federal courts in our country and different jurisdictions. the supreme court determines what is the law of the land so the federal law is not different in new jersey then it is in texas. but if the court is deadlocked in two similar cases and the decision reverts to the finding of the lower court, there could be differences in our person in
new jersey is treated and a person in texas under the same federal statutes. that is not equal justice under the law. to have equal justice under the law, the nation needs the supreme court to be fully functional. antonin scalia spoke of problems with that eight person quarterly in 2004 in explaining why he would not recuse himself in a case involving former vice president dick cheney, he said, quote, with eight justices raises the possibility that by reason of a tie vote the court will find itself unable to resolve significant legal issue presented by the case. even one unnecessary refusal impairs the functioning of the court. i believe in life, justice antonin scalia would say the president has an obligation to
nominate a supreme court justice. in 1987 before the democratic senate confirmed justice kennedy it was president reagan has said, quote, every day that passes with the supreme court below full strength impairs the people's business in that crucially important area. so i asked my republican colleagues how long are you willing to impair the people's business? how long are you willing to stick to a strategy of obstructionism over good governance? how long are you willing to deny this president his constitutional authority and obligation to appoint a nominee to satisfy your political agenda? how long are you willing to deny equal justice under the law? it was john adams who reminded us this is a, quote, government of laws, not of men. it was justice felix frankfurter who said, quote, of one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man
can. that means first chaos, then tyranny. legal process is the essential part of the democratic process. mr. president, let us not in this chamber be the one man. let us do our jobs. in this case the constitution is the law. not too a misguided determination to score political points to undermine the legitimacy of this president. the american people understand that our obligation in this process is to advise and consent, not neglect and obstruct. the american people will see the harm to our country and our courts if the majority continues these political tactics. do the right thing, let's do our jobs and respect this institution and the constitution by holding hearings and let's provide equal justice under the law.
i yield the floor. >> the clerk will call the roll. >> senator from iowa. horse >> i think we just heard some -- >> will the senator from new jersey withhold his request to call a quorum? >> senator from iowa without objection. >> we heard some very legitimate questions, the previous speaker. that ought to be answered. i am going to go back to the familiar to answer is that, the so-called biden rules. .. with the biden rules, so i'm not going it take time to go over all of them again, but they boil down to a couple basic points. first, the president should exercise restraint and -- quote -- "not name a nominee until after the november election is
completed" -- end of quote. or, stated differently, the president should let the people decide. but if the president chooses not to follow this model but inste instead, as chairman biden said -- quote -- "goes the way of -- quote -- "goes the way of and presses an election-year nomination, and, of course, then the senate shouldn't consider the nomination and shouldn't hold hearings. it doesn't matter, he said, and i quote, how could a person is nominated by the president, end of quote. so the historical record is pretty clear. but we haven't talked as much about one of the main reasons chairman biden was so adamant that the senate should consider a supreme court nominee during a
heated presidential election. it's because of the tremendous damage such a hyper political environment would cause the court, the nominee, and the nation. in short, if the senate considered a supreme court nominee during a heated presidential election campaign, the court would become even more political than it already is. that's a big part of what was driving chairman biden in 1992 when he spoke these strong words. here's how chairman biden described the problem in an interview, not the speech on the floor that i have quoted in the past. in an interview about a week before his famous speech of 1992, quote, can you imagine dropping a nominee into that
fight, into the called for him in the middle of it residential presidential year? he continued, quote, i believe there would be no balance of propriety that would be honored by either side. the environment within which such a hearing would be held would be so supercharged and so prone to be able to be distorted, end of quote. and as a result, chairman biden concluded, quote, whomever the nominee was, but bad or indifferent, we become a victim in the code -- good, bad, or indifferent. my friend, the vice president, but if and when he was in the senate, then considered the tremendous damage that thrusting
a supreme court nominee into a frenzied political environment would cause and weighed it against the potential impact of the eight-member court for a short time. he concluded that, these are his words, the miner cost -- can continue to go to make it at that view, i'm sorry. he concluded that the minor costs of the three or four cases that would be argued are nothing compared to the damage a hyper politicized fight would have on quote, the nominee, the president, the senate, in the nation, no matter how good a person is nominated by the president, end of quote. the former chairman concluded that because of how badly such a
situation would politicize the process, and based on the historical record, the only reasonable and fair approach, or is he said, pragmatic approach, is not considered the nominee, or as he said, the pragmatic approach is not to consider a nominee during a presidential election, or let's put it in his words in a fairly long quote. once the political season is underway, action on a supreme court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over. that is what is fair to the nominee, and is central to the process. otherwise, it seems to me, mr. president, we will be in deep trouble as an institution, end of quote.
well, the quotes concluded his way. senate consideration of a nominee under these circumstances is not fair to the president, to the nominee, or to the senate itself. end of quote. this in part is why chairman biden went to such lengths to explain the history of bitter fights that occurred in presidential years. as he said, quote, some of our nation's most bitter and heated confirmation fights have come in presidential election years, end of quote. let me just say this about the discussion that we are having today and we will probably have every day for the next several months. everyone knows about this nominee isn't going to get confirmed. republicans know it. democrats know it. the president knows it.
and can you believe it, even the press knows it. that's why, for instance, the "washington post" called the president's future nominee a, quote, judicial kamikaze pilot, end of quote. and the "new york times" noted that the nominee would need a quote, almost suicide willingness to become a central player in a political fight that seems likely to end in failure, end of quote. so the only question is why with the other side come to the floor to express outrage about not having a hearing? mr. president, it's because they want to make this as political as possible. the press has already picked up on it. for instance, cnn reported that the other side hopes to use the
fight over a supreme court nominee to quote, energized the democratic base, end of quote. and they are already using the supreme court and the additional -- eventual nominee as a political weapon. they want nothing more than to make the process as political as possible. that's why the president wants to push forward with a nominee that will not get confirmed. that's why the other side is clamoring for a hearing on the nominee everyone knows won't get confirmed. and making the court even more political is absolutely the last thing that the supreme court needs. the court has been politicized enough already. a recent gallup poll documents the frustration i hear expressed even at the grassroots of my state of iowa. in the six years since president obama has appointed two
justices, the american peoples disapproval of the supreme court jumped from 28% disapproval in 2009 the 50% disapproval in 2015 your will now, that's what happens when justices legislate from the bench. and i might say there's even a republican nominee to that bench, sitting on that bench, that has legislated from the bench as well. so that's what happens when justices make decisions based upon their personal political preferences, or what's in their heart rather than what's in the constitution and the law. the last thing we need is to further politicize the process and the courts. so i just want to make sure everyone understands what all this outrage is about.
it's about making this process as political as possible. we are not going to let that happen to the court, the nominee or the nation, to follow the suggestion of then senator biden. we are going to have a debate, a national debate between the democratic nominee and the republican nominee about what kind of justice the american people want on the supreme court. that's what the american people deserve their and that's what we're going to let the people, that's what we are going to the people decide. beyond just one justice. there's even more basic debate. because at my town meetings often somebody will come in very outraged about why this is senator, who probably doesn't understand senators don't impeach, we are juries of impeachment, you ought to
impeach supreme court justices. they are making law instead of interpreting the law. how come you put up with that? so we can have a debate between the republican nominee and the president, a republican nominee, on what kind, what is the constitutional role of the court. and maybe even make some impact upon justices who feel that their personal feelings ought to fit into a decision. or as the president says, that he wants somebody that expresses empathy and understanding of people's problems. as we all know that's not the purpose of the judicial branch of government. that branch of government isn't supposed to let their personal feelings involved whatsoever. the president should not encourage that of justices he
appoints. their job is to look at what the law says or the constitution says, the facts of the case, and make the impartial judgment. it would even go to the point of a republican appointed to the supreme court who, when issuing a decision that somehow the affordable care act didn't fit into what congress could do in regard, in regard to regulating interstate commerce, because maybe that case could not be approved, a we can go over here to the taxing powers of the federal government. we might find a way that this president can have his legacy approved. now that's a republican justices said that. find all kinds of ways to do what you want to do as opposed
to what the constitution requires, or what congress intends in legislation. it would be nice to have that debate between a democrat nominee and of republican nominee, whether we have two, three, four national debates whether they have hundreds of appearances around the country, to have these basic constitutional issues discussed, and then let the people decide. not just on one justice, but really what is the role of the supreme court or the courts generally in our constitutional system. i yield the floor. >> mr. president? >> the senator from vermont. >> mr. president, i found this interesting. when my children were little i would read fairytales to them and they love this, especially
through the looking glass, alice in wonderland. and in listening to the speech i thought of the looking glass and alice in wonderland. it's interesting how president obama gets blamed for everything. all the approval rating of the supreme court has gone down, gone down. the majority of the supreme court our republicans. they have been avoided or nominated by republican presidents. we are going to blame president obama because the republicans dominated by republican presidents are bringing down the approval of the u.s. supreme court? according to my dear friend from iowa, he is saying president obama should be blamed for what those republicans on the supreme court did. this is alice in wonderland. this is alice in wonderland.
i don't care what happens to president obama has to get blamed for it. if we have a hurricane or something, must be president obama's fault. but this is as far a stretch as i've ever heard, that was the supreme court goes down in approval rating because of the five members -- [phone ringing] -- i apologize for that. because of the five members of the supreme court. i apologize. i'm sure president obama is going to get blamed for that. but if the approval rating of the court goes down because of the five republicans who
constituted the majority of it, is about as far-fetched as alice in wonderland to blame president obama for it. let's talk about facts. i like to talk about facts. in the way democrats have handled republican nominees. what my distinguished friend didn't point out, even though it's been pointed out to him by the vice president and by the president personally, certainly in my presence, vice president biden's speech, read the whole speech. he's talking about what happens after the election. vice president biden as chairman biden put through in an election year a republican nominee to the supreme court and got a unanimous vote of democrats and republicans in this body. those are the facts. in president bush's, the fact
that we use a different standard appears in president bush's final figures. democrats controlled the senate. i was chairman. we confirmed 68 of his nominees. republicans in the president obama's prior two years in office only allowed 16. these are facts. this isn't rhetoric. these are facts. we are now 68 for a republican president. republicans allowed only 16 for a democratic president, but that then they will blame the state of the judiciary on president obama. then you talk about vice president biden when he was chairman and what he might have said. during president h. w. bush's last year in office. vice president biden, he tried to imply that he would block judges. he put through 11 republican
nominees for the circuit court, 53 republican nominees for the district, or 11 for the circuit court, 53 for the district court. you know what republicans allowed? five district court this year. so don't go, disable want to follow the bible, i wish we would. we put -- biden world. we put the 53 and 11 and republican presidents last year in office, republican-controlled senate allows only five. com, on. let's be fair. the fact is they are has never, we have never blocked in a presidential election year a supreme court nominee because it was a presidential election year.
in fact, i think we created the judiciary committee in 1816, always about presidential nominees to go forth. and i tell you this because the constitution requires the president to make a nomination but it's very clear. and then it says that we show advice and consent. we are saying no, we won't even advice, we won't even consent, we would even have a hearing. mr. president, i've taken the oath of office here seven times. it is a moving, scrolling moment. i'm sure that distinguished presiding officer when he was sworn in knows it is a solemn moment. you promise to uphold the constitution, so help me god.
the constitution says the president shall nominate. it says we shall advise and consent. i took my oath very, very seriously. that's why, just as vice president biden did when he was chairman, i moved a significant number of republicans judges through, even in the last year that they were in office. and that's so different than what we see now. just think of it. you criticize vice president biden the last year that president george h. w. bush was in office, vice president biden was chairman of the judiciary committee and he put through 11 circuit court judges, 53
district court judges. theyou want to talk about the bn rule? the republicans have allowed five district court judges. come on. let's get this out of partisanship. by any standard whatsoever there's been a republican president and democratic controlled congress, senate, we have treated that republican president far better than they have treated democratic presidents. and, but they do here because of the supreme court with five republican appointed majority members of the supreme court are bringing down the approval rating of the supreme court, the american people, it must be president obama's fault, even though those five were nominated and approved