March 20, 2017

Meanwhile, in the not-"Russia hacking our election" universe.....

At the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings of Neil Gorsuch this morning, Senator Al Franken followed Senator Ted Cruz (don't get me started) to make an opening statement. Thank goodness Franken is there.

-- Transcript -- [Al Franken addressing Neil Gorsuch]

I think it's important to acknowledge just exactly how it is that you came before us today and we talked about this, namely, the committee's failure to fill one of its core functions immediately following the death of Justice Scalia, and before President Obama even named a nominee, my Republican colleagues announced they would not move forward with filling the vacancy until after the presidential election. The majority leader said, and I quote, "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court." The only problem with the majority leader's reasoning is that the American people did have a voice in this decision, twice. Nonetheless, when President Obama nominated chief judge Merrick Garland, the committee responded by refusing to hold a hearing, a truly historic dereliction of duty of the body, and a tactic as cynical as it was irresponsible. As a result of my Republican colleagues' unprecedented obstruction, Justice Scalia's seat has remained empty.

Then-candidate Trump made no secret what kind of nominee he would select. In fact, he openly discussed his litmus test. He said that quote, "I will appoint judges very much in the mold of Justice Scalia." During the final presidential debate then-candidate Trump said, quote, "The justices I'm going to appoint will be pro-life. They will have a conservative bent." Justice Scalia was a man of great conviction and a man of great humor, but Justice Scalia embraced a rigid view of our constitution, a view blind to the equal dignity of LGBT people, and hostile to women's reproductive rights, and a view that refused to acknowledge the lingering laws and policies that perpetuate the racial divide.

Judge Gorsuch, while no one can dispute the late Judge Scalia's love of the Constitution, the document he revered -- looks very different from the one I have sworn to defend and it troubles me that this critical juncture in our nation's history, when our country is so fixated on things that divide us, that President Trump would pledge to appoint jurists whose views of our founding document seek to reinforce those divisions rather than bridge them.

This is an important moment in our history. The public's trust in our government and in the integrity of our institutions is at an all-time low. But that erosion of trust didn't take place overnight and didn't happen on its own. The American people's loss of confidence in our public institutions was quickened by the court.

A study published the Minnesota Law Review found that the Roberts Court is more likely to side with business interests than any Supreme Court since World War II. Time and time again, the Roberts Court has issued decisions that limit our constituents' ability to participate freely and fairly in our democracy.

Decisions like Shelby County, where the court gutted a landmark civil right law and removed a crucial check on racial -- race discrimination at the ballot box.

Or like Concepcion, the 5-4 decision that allows corporations to place obstacles between consumers and the courthouse door.

Perhaps most egregious of all, was Citizens United which paved the way for individuals and outside groups to spend unlimited sums of money in our election.

It's no surprise that during the 2016 election, voters from across the spectrum, Democrats and Republicans alike, described our system as rigged. That's because it is. And the Roberts court bears a great deal of responsibility for that.

Now, in each one of those 5-4 decisions, Justice Scalia was in the majority. So this committee sets about the task of evaluating his potential successor, I want to better understand the extent to which you share justice Scalia's judicial philosophy and I will be paying close attention to the ways in which your views set you apart.

And don't think what's going on in the House Intelligence Committee isn't having an impact on the conversation over Gorsuch.

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