Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Senate Judiciary Committee Executive Business Meeting

This Committee may not be through the confirmation hearings for Judge Barrett, but we are now officially through the looking glass.  As if ramming through confirmation hearings just two weeks after Judge Barrett’s nomination and less than three weeks before an election amid a pandemic affecting Committee members wasn’t enough of a sham, we are now proceeding to advance her nomination before her hearings have even concluded.  Before we even have a chance to ask the nominee all of our questions.  Before we have a chance to hear from all of the witnesses this Committee deemed necessary to provide input on the nomination.  And apparently before this Committee has even reviewed all of Judge Barrett’s record. 

Records of Judge Barrett’s undisclosed speeches and materials continue to pour in, including seven more last night.  All were omitted from her questionnaire.  I am not suggesting that Judge Barrett intentionally failed to disclose all of these records to the Committee.  But I am absolutely suggesting that the Committee’s mad rush to confirm her has predictably resulted in a sloppy process and an incomplete record. 

There is no reason why these deficiencies cannot be cured.  There is no reason why this nomination cannot be delayed.  If President Trump wins re-election, this Committee could take up Judge Barrett’s nomination in January.  That process would be legitimate.  This one is not.

Instead, this process is a caricature of illegitimacy.  The fact that we had a nominee before Justice Ginsburg was even buried — in order to jam this nomination through before the election — will forever mark this process as the callous, political power grab that it is. 

It’s no secret why President Trump is so desperate to install Judge Barrett before the election.  Always one to say the quiet part out loud, President Trump has said he expects his nominee to side with him in any election-related dispute.  He has made it impossible for Americans not to question Judge Barrett’s impartiality should she vote on such a case as a Justice.  And so it is incredibly disappointing that she declined to commit to recuse herself from any election-related cases.  If she decides in the President’s favor in any election-related dispute, it would cause grievous harm to both the Court and indeed our democracy.  No judge should ever place the integrity of either in such jeopardy.

And it gets worse.  Republicans have another horse in the race — their lawsuit to strike down the Affordable Care Act on November 10th.  The President and Republican Attorneys General do not just want to strike down just some of the ACA, they want to strike down all of it.  Republicans on this Committee have tried for years to overturn the ACA, both in Congress and in the courts.  They now see an opportunity in Judge Barrett, who has repeatedly criticized the constitutionality and legality of the law and who has never once defended it. 

So that’s why we’re here today.  Republicans see an opportunity to wildly swing the balance of the court for decades.  That’s why they have all gone back on their word about giving the American people a voice when President Obama nominated the eminently qualified Judge Merrick Garland 10 months before an election.  That’s why Republicans are diminishing this Committee — and the Senate — into a mindless rubber stamp now.  

There is no glossing over how wrong and base this process is.  The damage inflicted in the wake of this outrageous power grab will be considerable — perhaps even irreparable.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  This doesn’t have to be the story of Judge Barrett’s nomination.  But it is what Republicans have chosen.  In their pursuit of raw power, in their drive to deprive millions of Americans of their basic healthcare protections, Republicans are willing to shred every principle this place once stood for.  

I see this for what it is.  The American people, I hope, will too.    

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