Oct 22, 2020
Sen. Schumer & Senate Democrats Press Conference Transcript on Amy Coney Barrett Confirmation October 22
Senator Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats held a press conference on October 22 after Senate Republicans advanced Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. They addressed concerns about Barrett’s opinions on abortion, healthcare, and climate change. Read the transcript of their remarks here.
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Senator Chuck Schumer: (00:46)
Okay, let’s go over why we’re here. Should we [inaudible 00:00:55]?
Speaker 1: (00:53)
Senator [inaudible 00:01:01].
Senator Chuck Schumer: (00:53)
We’re waiting for her. [inaudible 00:01:05].
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (00:55)
I wonder if that’s going to stop.
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (01:04)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (01:25)
Okay, everybody, thank you very much for coming and thank you for joining us this morning. I am here to stand with my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, who are boycotting today’s committee markup on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. This is not a decision the members of the committee have taken lightly, but a Republican majority has left us no choice. We are boycotting this illegitimate hearing.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (02:03)
The nomination of Amy Coney Barrett is the most illegitimate process I have ever witnessed in the Senate and her potential confirmation will have dire, dire consequences for the Senate, for the Supreme Court and our entire country for generations to come. The Senate Republican majority is conducting the most rushed, the most partisan and the least legitimate nomination to the Supreme Court in our nation’s history. Her potential confirmation will have dire consequences for the Senate, for the Supreme Court and our entire country for generations to come. The Senate majority is conducting the most rushed, the most partisan and the least legitimate process in the long history of Supreme Court nominations. Democrats will not lend a single ounce of legitimacy to this sham vote in the Judiciary Committee. Democrats will not lend a single ounce of legitimacy to this awful, awful hearing. We are voting with our feet, we are standing together and we are standing against this unprecedented mad rush to jam through a Supreme Court nomination just days, days before an election.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (03:53)
Today, the seats of Democratic members in the committee will remain empty. Instead, they will be filled by reminders of what is ultimately at stake, photos of Americans whose lives will be turned upside down if a Justice Barrett delivers the decisive vote to secure the long held Republican goal of destroying the Affordable Care Act, stripping healthcare and pre-existing conditions from over a hundred million Americans. You could imagine, alongside their faces, the faces of women who cherish the right to make their own private medical decisions. The faces of LGBTQ Americans who want to marry who they love and not be fired for who they are. The faces of American workers who are breaking their backs to make ends meet and want their union to help them get a better wage. The faces of young people who know the globe is in peril in their lifetimes.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (05:08)
The bottom line is very simple, the Senate should not be moving towards this nomination. To call this process illegitimate is actually being too kind, but Chairman Graham has broken the rules of the committee to move forward with a vote on Judge Barrett anyway. The rules require two members of the minority to be present to vote anyone out of committee, but Chairman Graham just steamrolled over them, just like the Republican majority has steamrolled over principle, fairness, honesty, truth, and decency in their rush to confirm a justice.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (05:57)
The United States Senate has never, never considered a Supreme Court justice this close to a national presidential election day, especially one in which tens of millions of Americans have already voted. The American people oppose this and can see the hypocrisy in real time. It is a hallmark of democracy that might should not make right, but Republicans are blatantly ignoring this principle. The American people know what’s going on, they’re not fooled, they know this process is a sham, a naked power grab, and it’s no mystery why they’re doing it. This is the culmination of a decades, long effort to skew the court to the far right. What Republicans and the far right cannot accomplish through the legislature, they’re trying to accomplish through the judiciary. Senate Republicans tried and failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, so President Trump and Republicans Attorneys Generals are suing to eliminate the law in court. And now, if Senate Republicans confirm Judge Barrett, someone we all know is critical of decisions upholding the ACA, they could be on the brink of achieving their goal. That’s what, this is all about.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (07:31)
The American people who are voting right now by tens of millions are not fooled by this farce of a confirmation process and they know what’s at stake, their rights, if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (07:48)
This nomination should not, should not go forward. Senator Feinstein.
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (08:01)
Good morning. Last week committee rules were broken to set today’s vote and the Republicans broke the rules again by proceeding today without any Democrats present. All along, Democrats had objected to proceeding on this nomination in the middle of an election. 40 million Americans have already voted and we’re just 12 days from an election. In 2016, the Republicans set a precedent against filing a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year when they blocked president Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for 10 months before that election. Then, in 2016, Republicans said it was necessary to hold the nomination until after the election in order to give the American people a voice at the ballot box. Specifically, Majority Leader McConnell said this, and I quote, “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice, therefore this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” end quote. You know, there’s an old adage, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Now, however, Republicans are proceeding regardless.
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (09:36)
Last week, Democrats participated in the nomination hearings because we wanted to show what was at stake for America if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed. We made our case about risks to affordable care, especially the Affordable Care Act, reproductive freedom, the right to vote and equality for all. We believe that both the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade could be lost. The democratic members of the Judiciary Committee did not have the votes to defeat Judge Barrett in committee. At that point, there was no further reason to participate in a committee process that has been used to rush this nominee forward. I will be voting against Judge Barrett on the floor, but between now and then Democrats on this committee and across our caucus will continue to make the case about what’s at stake for the American people if Judge Barrett is confirmed.
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (10:50)
I now, with great pleasure, recognize my colleague and friend, Senator Patrick Leahy.
Senator Leahy: (11:04)
Thank you. As Senator Schumer and Senator Feinstein pointed out, this hearing was anything but fair. And we saw again what just happened. Moments ago in a Senate hearing room across the street, Republicans broke committee rules. But in many ways, even worse than that, they broke their word. To finish a confirmation process has become a caricature of illegitimacy. Republicans have not been shy about why they’re in this mad rush. Why, the Republicans announced their nominee even before Justice Ginsburg was buried. They see an opportunity to accomplish from the Court what they failed to accomplish in Congress. That includes making voting a second-class right. Republicans have launched an all-out war on voting and they’ve done it in the courts.
Senator Leahy: (12:08)
Last night, they were successful when the Supreme Court voted five to three to block curbside voting in Alabama during the pandemic. And earlier this week, when the court split four to four to uphold the right of Pennsylvanians to vote by mail. Republicans obviously believe a Justice Barrett will ensure they do not lose again when they try to stop people from voting. It’s not hard to see why time and time again the president has said he needs Judge Barrett on the bench when he raises his baseless, outrageous claims about mail-in balloting. Another reason, and another Republican on the Senate Committee, says it’s the entire reason they need her confirmed now before the election. President Trump says he has to have a nominee, has to have a Supreme Court Justice who will do what he wants her to do.
Senator Leahy: (13:18)
And it doesn’t bode well that during their hearing, Judge Barrett refused to stand up for even the most basic tenants of our democracy. She refused to affirm that the Constitution contemplates a peaceful transfer of power. She refused to acknowledge that voter discrimination exists when we all know it does. And she refused to recuse herself from any election dispute. Make no mistake. President Trump was listening and he sees this as a green light to do whatever he wants. No matter the odds, we need to keep fighting this domination. We need to do everything we can to protect our democracy. And according passing by John Lewis Border Rights Advancement Act, it’s passed the House, bring it up for a vote here and pass it here. The right to vote is democracy is day. That means we have to be clear about what to state with this domination. There is nothing more important for a government that claims to be one for the people, by the people, and for the people, not, not a dictatorship. And I yield now to Senator Durbin.
Senator Durbin: (14:42)
Thank you, Senator Leahy. Today, on the floor of the United States Senate, we’re discussing a Supreme Court vacancy. We should be talking about another topic. America is in the throes of the deadliest epidemic in more than a century. 222,000 Americans have died. Many states are reporting a record number of infections and death. In my state of Illinois, the governor has recently called on the restaurants in the four major counties surrounding Chicago to close because infection rates are out of control. It’s personal. A dear friend of mine, feeling ill last Saturday, called her daughter and said, “I need to go to a hospital.” She went to the first major hospital near her and was turned away because there was no room. She went to the second hospital, turned away, no room. Finally admitted in third hospital. She passed away on Tuesday morning. “We have reached the point now,” her daughter said, “where I couldn’t even get mom into the very best hospital.”
Senator Durbin: (16:02)
That is the state of America today. You would never know it if you listened to the debate on the floor of the United States Senate because Senator McConnell and the Republicans believe the priority for America is their political move to fill this vacancy on the Supreme Court. We should be passing a massive COVID-19 relief bill that would include testing, money for hospitals and clinics, money for schools, unemployment insurance, help for small businesses, help for the restaurant industry, the airline industry, and state and local governments. But Senator Mitch McConnell has no time for that. He has otherwise time only for political agenda. No time for coronavirus and the economy, no time for him to personally attend negotiations to try to come up with a massive COVID-19 relief bill to meet this national challenge. Senator McConnell and the Republicans have only one priority. It is political. They need to reverse the position they announced four years ago when they denied President Obama the opportunity to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. They need to deny the American people a voice in this selection process. They need to force through this nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Millions of Americans watched the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. They can draw their own conclusions. I’ll tell you mine. Yes, her resume tells us that she has a lot of law in her head. What I wanted to know is what she has in her heart. What we learned was she did not have the compassion for 23 million Americans who were depending on the Affordable Care Act to provide them some refuge and some confidence in the midst of this pandemic. She didn’t have the courage to stand up to President Trump and say she would not be a lackey of his when it came to an election contest. And she didn’t have a basic commitment to the pillars of modern law in America, the pillars including the rights of women, the pillars including our battle against racism, the pillars including marriage equality, privacy for every American citizen. And most importantly, just a few days before this election, no commitment to when it came to voting rights in America.
Senator Durbin: (18:42)
Look every day at the news reports of people standing in line in the United States waiting for 10 hours to vote. That is shameful in a country that claims to be a democracy with opportunity for all. And so we come to you today to make it clear. We could not be party to this Senate Judiciary Committee action across the street this morning. It was in violation of committee law and committee rules. But more importantly, it was in violation of fair play. We believe the American people should have the last word in filling this Supreme Court vacancy. And they will have the last word on November 3rd. The efforts by Senator McConnell to ignore this pandemic and to move forward with this nomination are inconsistent with the basic principles of this country. And that is why the members of the committee decided en mass not to participate. I now introduce Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: (19:45)
For the third time now, big anonymous donors seem to have bought their way to the table at which United States Supreme Court Justices are selected. For the third time. For the third time, big anonymous donors have written checks of $15 million and higher to pay for the campaigns for the confirmation of the selected justices. For the third time. And for the third time, our Republican colleagues have broken every rule, every practice, every norm of the Senate, including ones they set themselves in order to deliver for the big anonymous donors a court that will serve their interests. They are turning that institution into a pantomime court that goes through the motions of adjudication, but delivers the goods for the donors. This ain’t over. And with that, let me turn it over to the distinguished Senator Klobuchar.
Senator Klobuchar: (21:21)
Thank you, everyone. This is a Justice Ginsburg dissent collar. And I think we should not forget what her last fervent wish was. And that was that the winner of the election, the next president, pick her successor. That was, in fact, consistent with the precedent set by our Republican colleagues just a few years ago. That is what this is about. They have engaged in a sham and violating their own precedent and not listening to the words of the great Justice-
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (22:03)
Not listening to the words of the great Justice Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg said that her dissents were blueprints for the future. As a rabbi noted in this great Capitol, they were not cries of defeat, they were blueprints for the future. That is what is at stake in this election, because we can make our own blueprints for the future. We can make our own blueprints by voting.
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (22:35)
The one thing I wanted to focus on today was something that Senator Durbin referred to, and that is this is deeply personal for so many Americans. While the Republicans are ramming through this justice and spending the whole weekend on that, what should we be doing? Helping the families of this country, the moms that are trying to keep their kids on their laps while they’ve got their laptops on their desk. The moms and dads that are trying to teach first graders how to use the mute button. The seniors, like my dad, who got COVID, who I’ve visited through a glass door not knowing if it was going to be the last time I saw him at 92 years old, and he looked so small in that room. People like my husband that got really, really sick, and I didn’t think was going to make it home.
Senator Dianne Feinstein: (23:29)
This is personal for everyone out there. No matter where you come down on this, this is personal, and this Republican majority and this president have chosen to make as their closing argument that they’re going to push through a nominee whose record shows us just where she’s going to come out on so many things. The Affordable Care Act is on the ballot. Voting is on the ballot. Women’s rights are on the ballot. And this is our moment. I do not stand here today with the cry of defeat. No matter what a sham this is, I stand here for Justice Ginsburg with a blueprint for the future.
Jesus saves. Jesus saves. Jesus Chris spoke today.
Senator Coons: (24:30)
Good morning. This morning, the Capitol and the Supreme Court are shrouded in mist and fog. It’s not clear, so let us help clear it up, because sometimes the talk of votes and committees of quorum and filibusters here in the Capitol in the Senate is a little hazy for the American people and sometimes tough to follow. But why we’re here on these steps and what this is all about is all about what is on the ballot and what is on the docket.
Senator Coons: (25:04)
On the agenda this morning, on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was moving the nomination of Judge Barrett to the floor of the Senate. As my colleagues have said now several times, the only way the Republican majority was able to do this was by breaking the rules of the committee. We were not there and we were not part of that vote because after the confirmation hearings that have happened, it is abundantly clear that in the middle of a pandemic where 8 million Americans have been infected and more than 220,000 have lost their lives, we should instead be negotiating a robust package of pandemic relief, and the Republicans have insisted on breaking the example they set just four years ago of refusing to move a qualified nominee in the midst of an election. Well, folks, we’re in the midst of an election. Tens of millions of Americans are already voting, and we participated in the hearing so that we could ask Judge Barrett, so we could get clear for the American people what’s on the ballot and what’s on the docket. Like all of us, I brought a picture of a real person for whom the consequences of what’s on the docket are very real.
Senator Coons: (26:27)
Just a week after the election, the Supreme Court will hear another constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act, long settled eight years ago. In my case, Carrie from Middletown with a preexisting condition, a small business owner, someone who can’t get access to quality affordable healthcare if the Affordable Care Act is overturned. In the confirmation process, I asked Judge Barrett, “Will you recuse yourself if this rushed and partisan unprecedented process results in putting you in that court just in time to decide cases that arise from this election?” Well, she hemmed and hawed. She would not commit to recusing herself from a decision that would hand the election to Donald Trump.
Senator Coons: (27:17)
Why is this even an issue? Because of what Donald Trump, President Trump himself has said. Over and over, President Trump has said, “I want her rushed through so that a judge can sit on the court and overturn the ACA. I want her rushed through so she can decide the election.” Every member of the Republican majority, in the judiciary committee, and in this Capitol behind me has over and over voted to overturn the Affordable Care Act. This isn’t about what Judge Barrett said in her confirmation hearings, because she mostly wouldn’t answer. It’s about what we all know is on the agenda, is on the ballot, and is on the docket.
Senator Coons: (28:03)
I asked Judge Barrett if she would simply confirm, as several conservative justices before her have, that the right to privacy first recognized in Griswold versus Connecticut decades ago in 1965 was settled, was safe, was secure, was the sort of right that Americans can know is not on the docket and is not up for reconsideration. Unlike justices, both progressive and conservative, before her, she would not say so. Why does that concern me? Because her writings and her records show in Judge Barrett a judge willing to go farther to the right then even Justice Scalia, who she’s claimed as a mentor and a model, and to reach back, reconsider, and possibly overturn decisions that she and other conservative justices think were wrongly decided. What does that mean, might be on the docket? The whole line of cases that recognize privacy, the right to love, the right to marry.
Senator Coons: (29:07)
[Obergo Fell 00:07:07] decided just five years ago, and don’t listen to me, Justices Alito and Thomas just weeks ago raised their hand and said, “We should reach back and reconsider.” Folks, they may be shrouded in mist right now, but I hope I’ve helped make it clear, as have all the Democrats standing behind me. We were not over in the judiciary committee markup this morning because we want it to be clear, what was on the agenda, what is on the docket, what is on the ballot. This is personal. It’s about long settled rights for millions and millions of Americans. In the middle of this pandemic, we should not be racing for the Republicans to confirm this partisan nominee who puts at risk hundreds of cases long settled. We should be delivering relief to the American people. Thank you. With that, I’d love to hand this over to Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Jesus saves. Jesus saves. [inaudible 00:30:14].
Senator Blumenthal: (30:10)
Thanks, Senator Coons. First of all, my thanks to Senator Schumer and Senator Feinstein for their leadership. Make no mistake, we are 100% unified. If it sounds like we’re repeating each other’s points, it’s not due to lack of originality, it’s a sign of our unity and our determination to continue this fight.
Senator Blumenthal: (30:38)
Now, I listened to my Republican colleagues during the meeting today. Their case for moving Judge Barrett forward was to attack Democrats. It was full of bile and anger and grievance against Democrats. They are running away from the issues, from the effect of this nomination to take away rights to healthcare for millions of Americans, rights to gun violence prevention, rights to vote, rights to safety in the workplace. In fact, millions of Americans with preexisting conditions will be at risk because of this nomination if it is confirmed. But watching them in that committee room were real people on posters that we brought into that hearing room, real people whose lives may be decimated by rulings on the ACA to strike it down. Real women who will lose control over when and whether they have children, because this nominee has said, in effect, the legacy of Roe V. Wade is barbaric. She has aligned herself with groups that would criminalize in vitro fertilization. She has shown, by her legal positions, that she would overturn Roe V. Wade, and in fact, she has passed the Trump test, he called it a strong test, strike down the ACA, overturn Roe V. Wade. That’s the reason that she wouldn’t answer our questions. She’s already answered those questions for the vetting and screening right wing groups that have given her the pass. Almost half a century ago in the building across this…
Senator Cory Booker: (33:03)
… a century ago, in the building across the street, Justice Blackmun wrote the opinion in Roe V. Wade. I clerked for him shortly after he did it.
Senator Cory Booker: (33:13)
And we thought then that this issue was solved, that privacy was guaranteed. And yet today we are still fighting the issue that protects women’s rights. We owe it to them, we owe it to all Americans to keep up this fight because we can’t go back to the time when abortion was banned, when contraception was criminalized, we need to move forward. We’re determined to do it.
Senator Cory Booker: (33:47)
I’ve heard from those Americans who have been watching, the Americans that we brought into the hearing room, the Americans who are scared and angry. I’ve been listening to people across Connecticut who feel fundamental rights may be gone.
Senator Cory Booker: (34:07)
Our Republican colleagues have pushed this nomination through in a raw exercise of power. They’re doing it because they can. The American people can do what they can on November 3rd, we’re not done; we’re going to continue to fight this nomination. We will have votes ahead. And I hope my colleagues will be held accountable for disregarding the will of the American people who want their voice heard so that the next president and the next Senate will choose the next justice. I’m now happy to yield to my great colleague from Hawaii, Senator Hirono.
Senator Mazie Hirono: (34:55)
Thank you. I am very committed to joining my colleagues in other protests of what is happening with this nominee. These are not normal times. It’s not normal times when we asked Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans, “Why are your priorities so screwed up that in the middle of a pandemic, we can’t work on a COVID bill that actually helps people, and you’re pushing through this nominee?”
Senator Mazie Hirono: (35:25)
It’s not normal with that question becomes a rhetorical question, but here we are. So we all know that Amy Barrett presents a clear and present danger to the Affordable Care Act. Come November 10th, when the Republicans get their way, she’ll be sitting there in the court to hear this case. She has already let it be known that she thinks Chief Justice Roberts made a mistake when he upheld the law. Which means that if she had been sitting in that court, she would have struck down the Affordable Care Act then.
Senator Mazie Hirono: (35:58)
She is a clear and present danger to so many of the rights that Ruth Bader Ginsburg… You know what? It wasn’t long ago when we lost her, have we forgotten all the things that she fought for? Equal rights for women, access to affordable care, LGBTQ rights, all the rights that Ruth Bader Ginsberg fought for, and that she actually listened to the people who would be impacted by the courts decisions.
Senator Mazie Hirono: (36:29)
So I want to focus on one of these rights, LGBTQ rights. One of my colleagues mentioned Obergefell, two Supreme Court justices have already signaled, this is what they do, they signal, “Why don’t we revisit Obergefell because there is no constitutional basis for same sex marriage?” This would be justices Alito and Thomas. They’re really good at signaling what they would like to have a chance to overturn.
Senator Mazie Hirono: (36:58)
Now, Judge Barrett aligns herself with Justice Scalia, who wrote all of the major decisions against gay rights, including the last one, was Obergefell.
Senator Mazie Hirono: (37:13)
So you combine the fact that judge Barrett aligns herself with the right wing, conservative wing, of the Supreme Court, she is very much in line with her mentor Justice Scalia, combine that with her outlier view of precedent, where she says, “It is up to every justice to decide for herself what the constitution requires,” and if precedent does not align with that, down goes the precedent.
Senator Mazie Hirono: (37:42)
That is why Roe V. Wade is at risk, that is why Obergefell is at risk, that is why so many of the rights and protections that Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her whole time on the Supreme Court fighting for are at risk. And that is why I stand here with my colleagues in protest of this nominee.
Senator Mazie Hirono: (38:05)
And guess what? They are already 40 million people who have voted. They know what’s at stake, they are listening. The Republicans hope that the people are not paying attention, but they are. I now I want to turn to my good friend, Corey Booker.
Speaker 2: (38:19)
Good job Mazie.
Senator Cory Booker: (38:29)
I stand with my colleagues in the firm commitment to some of the best of American values, and tactics. I stand with my colleagues with a commitment to non-cooperation with that which is long, and boycott of that which is unacceptable. We stand resolute and in lockstep with tens of millions of Americans of all backgrounds, all persuasions, all political parties, in the firm belief that what Senate Republicans are doing right now is wrong.
Senator Cory Booker: (39:07)
They’re violating processes, they’re violating rules, they are violating conscience, and they are violating their own words. It is a difficult thing to witness such bitter violence against your own words.
Senator Cory Booker: (39:29)
But I stand also with my colleagues in this resolute firm belief that we will continue the fight. Even though we stand at a point where in the midst of a pandemic, we do, almost literally, are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. At a time that our country needs the best of us, we have fallen into a rank partisanship that is failing us. Instead of coming together to claim the high ground of action on the crisis, we are descending into the low ground, and quicksand of a power grab that will go down in history as one of the darker moments of this institution.
Senator Cory Booker: (40:12)
And so today I stand with my colleagues, and I lean upon the truth of our history that has not been absent of wrongs from this institution, to that one. I stand with them in an understanding that in this great nation, America has shown an extraordinary alchemy; the ability to turn dark, dark nights into new days of hope, the ability to turn wretched wrongs into pathways of redemption, the ability to take from tragic defeat new possibilities for greater victories. And so today I join with my colleagues in a great tradition of non-cooperation, and boycotts of these proceedings. But I also join with them arm-in-arm, like so many of our ancestors did, and stay resolutely in the words of those who sacrifices ensured my very presence here, we say, we shall overcome.
Senator Cory Booker: (41:27)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (41:57)
Well done. Thank you everybody.