Sep 21, 2020
Transcript: Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer Speeches Addressing SCOTUS Nomination
Senators Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and Patrick Leahy gave remarks about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and addressed voting on a Supreme Court nominee before the election. Transcript of their September 21 Senate floor speeches here.
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Mitch McConnell: (00:00)
[inaudible 00:00:00:00]. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg meant so much to our country. First and foremost, she was a brilliant generational legal mind who climbed past one obstacle after another to summit the very pinnacle of her profession. Justice Ginsburg was a fixture on our nation’s highest court for more than a quarter of a century. She was not just a lawyer. No, not just a lawyer, but a leader from majority opinions to impassioned descents. Her life’s work will not only continue to shape jurisprudence, but also enlightened scholars and students for generations. By all accounts, justice Ginsburg loved her work because she loved the law.
Mitch McConnell: (00:57)
In a more ordinary life story, her courage and continued excellence in the face of multiple serious illnesses would itself be the heroic climax rather than just one more remarkable chapter among so many. On the court, Justice Ginsburg was a universally admired colleague. It’s no wonder that many Americans have taken particularly comfort these past days in remembering her famous friendship with her ideological opposite, the late Justice Scalia. Together, they made sure the halls of Justice also rang with laughter and comedy. They rarely sat on the same side of a high-profile decision, but they still sat together at the opera and most any other time they could manage to be together.
Mitch McConnell: (01:56)
The legal world is mourning a giant, but Justice Ginsburg’s fellow justices, a legion of loyal law clerks, and countless many others are mourning a close friend or a mentor. The Senate sends condolences to them all. Yet Justice Ginsburg’s impact on American life went deeper still. Friday’s loss feels personal to millions of Americans who may have never made her acquaintance. Justice Ginsburg with a spirited, powerful, and historic champion for American women to a degree that transcends any legal or philosophical disagreement.
Mitch McConnell: (02:42)
As she climbed from the middle class, Brooklyn Jewish roots of which she was so proud into the most rarefied air of law and government. The future justice had to surmount one sexist obstacle after another. And justice Ginsburg did not only climb a mountain, she blazed the trail through deeds, through words, and simply through her example. She helped clear away the cobwebs of prejudice. She opened one professional door after another and made certain they stayed open behind her directly or indirectly. She helped the entire generations of talented women build their lives as they saw fit and enrich our society through professional work, law and politics aside, no friend of equality could fail to appreciate Justice Ginsburg’s determination.
Mitch McConnell: (03:44)
Finally, while Justice Ginsburg relish forceful writing and detailed argument, she was also in important ways, a uniter. In recent years, many who considered themselves her admirers and might wish to claim the justice for their political side, have come to embrace reckless proposals to politicize the very structure of the court itself. But Justice Ginsburg remained unswerving in her public commitment to preserving the neutral foundation of the institution she loved.
Mitch McConnell: (04:22)
The entire Senate is united in thinking of and praying for Justice Ginsburg’s family, most especially her daughter, Jane, her son, James, her grandchildren, step grandchildren, great granddaughter, and everyone who called her their own.
Mitch McConnell: (04:42)
Mr. President, I asked consent that the following remarks appear at a different place in the record.
Speaker 2: (04:48)
Mitch McConnell: (04:51)
President Trump’s nominee for this vacancy will receive a vote on the floor of the Senate. Now already, some of the same individuals who tried every conceivable dirty trick to obstruct Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh are lining up to proclaim the third time will be the charm. The American people are about to witness an astonishing parade of misrepresentations about the past, misstatements about the present, and more threats against our institutions from the same people, the same people who’ve already been saying for months, well before this, already been saying for months, they want to pack the court.
Mitch McConnell: (05:44)
Two years ago, a radical movement tried to use unproven accusations to ruin a man’s life because they could not win a vote fair and square. Now, they appear to be ready in even more appalling sequel. This time, the target will not just be the presumption of innocence for one American, but our very governing institutions themselves. There will be times in the days ahead to discuss the naked threats that leading Democrats have long been directing at the United States Senate and the Supreme Court itself. These threats have grown louder, but they predate this vacancy by many months. There’ll be time to discuss why senators who appear on the steps of the Supreme Court and personally threatened associate justices if they do not rule a certain way or ill-equipped to give lectures on civics. But today, let’s dispense with a few of the factual misrepresentations right at the outset. We’re already hearing it incorrect claims that there is not sufficient time to examine and confirm a nominee. We can debunk this myth in about 30 seconds.
Mitch McConnell: (07:08)
As of today, there are 43 days until November 3rd and 104 days until the end of this Congress. The late iconic Justice John Paul Stevens was confirmed by the Senate 19 days after this body formerly received his nominations. 19 days from start to finish. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, another iconic jurist was confirmed. 33 days after her nomination. For the late Justice Ginsburg herself, it was just 42 days. Justice Stevens’ entire confirmation process could have been played out twice, twice between now and November 3rd with time to spare. And Justice Ginsburg herself could have been confirmed twice between now and the end of the year with time to spare.
Mitch McConnell: (08:11)
The Senate has more than sufficient time to process the nomination. History and precedent make that perfectly clear. Others want to claim this situation is exactly analogous to Justice Scalia’s passing in 2016, and so we should not proceed until January. This is also completely false. Here’s what I said on the Senate floor on the very first session the day after justice Scalia passed, “The Senate has not filled a vacancy arising in an election year when there was a divided government since 1888, almost 130 years ago.” Here’s what I said the next day when I spoke to the press for the first time on the subject, “You have to go back to 1888 when Grover Cleveland was president to find the last time a vacancy created in a presidential election year was approved by Senate of a different party.”.
Mitch McConnell: (09:16)
As of then, only six prior times in American history had a Supreme Court vacancy arisen in a presidential election year. And the president sent a nomination that year to the Senate of the opposite party. The majority of those times, the outcome was exactly what happened in 2016, no confirmation. The historically normal outcome when you have divided government.
Mitch McConnell: (09:45)
President Obama was asking Senate Republicans an unusual favor that had last been granted nearly 130 years before then. But voters had explicitly elected our majority to check and balance the end of his presidency, so we stuck with the basic norm. Oh, and by the way, in so doing, our majority did precisely what Democrats had indicated they would do themselves. In 1992, Democrats controlled the Senate opposite President Bush 41. Then Senator Joe Biden, chaired the judiciary committee, unprompted, unprompted he publicly declared that his committed might refuse to cooperate if a vacancy arose and the Republican president tried to fill it. In 2007, Democrats controlled the Senate opposite President Bush 43. And with more than a year and a half left, a year and a half left in President Bush 43’s term, the current democratic leader declared that, “Except in extraordinary circumstances” the opposite party Senate should boycott any further confirmations to the Supreme Court. That the current democratic leader a year and a half before the end of the Bush administration. So on 2016, Senate Republicans did not only maintain the historical norm, we also ran the Biden- Schumer playbook.
Mitch McConnell: (11:34)
When voters have not chosen divided government, when the American people have elected a Senate majority to work closely with the sitting president, the historical record is even more overwhelmingly in favor of confirmation. Eight times in our nation’s history, new vacancies have arisen and presidents have made nominations all during the election year. Seven of the eight were confirmed and the sole exception, Justice Abe Fortas was a bizarre situation, including obvious personal corruption that extended into financial dealings. Apart from that one strange exception, no Senate has failed to confirm a nominee in the circumstances that face us right now. Aside from that one strange exception, no Senate has failed to confirm a nominee in the circumstances that face us right now.
Mitch McConnell: (12:39)
The historical precedent is overwhelmingly and it runs in one direction. If our democratic colleagues want to claim they are outraged, they can only be outraged at the plain facts of American history. There was clear precedent behind the predictable outcome that came out of 2016, and there is even more overwhelming precedent behind the fact that this Senate will vote on this nomination this year. The American people reelected our majority in 2016. They strengthened it further in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump on the most critical issues facing our country. The federal judiciary was right at the top of the list. Ironically, it was the democratic leader who went out of his way to declare the midterm 2018 elections, a referendum on the Senate’s handling of the Supreme Court. My friend, the occupant of the chair was running that year. The democratic leader went out of his way to declare the 2018 midterms a referendum on the Senate’s handling of the Supreme Court. In his final speech before Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed, he-
Mitch McConnell: (14:03)
Before Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed. He yelled, literally yelled over and over at the American people to go vote. He told Americans go elect senators, based on how they’d approach their advice and consent duties over these weeks. Unfortunately, for him, many Americans did just that. After watching the Democrat’s tactics, voters grew our majority and retired four, four of our former colleagues who’d gone along with their party’s behavior. We gained two seats. They lost four. That was the issue.
Mitch McConnell: (14:47)
Perhaps more than any other single issue, the American people strengthened this Senate majority to keep confirming this President’s impressive judicial nominees who respect our constitution and understand the proper role of a judge.
Mitch McConnell: (15:03)
In 2014, the voters elected our majority because we pledged to check and balance a second lame duck President. Two years later, we kept our word. In 2018, the voters grew that majority on our pledge to continue working with President Trump, most especially on his outstanding judicial appointments. We’re going to keep our word once again. We’re going to vote on this nomination, on this floor. [inaudible 00:15:48] I understand that there is a bill at the desk to do a second reading.
Speaker 3: (15:54)
The clerk will read the title of the bill for the second time.
Speaker 4: (15:58)
As 4618, bill making emergency supplemental appropriations for disaster relief for the fiscal year ending September 30th, 2020, and for other purposes.
Mitch McConnell: (16:12)
In order to place the bill on the calendar, under provisions rule 14, I would object to further proceedings.
Speaker 3: (16:20)
Objection having been heard, the bill will be placed on the calendar.
Mitch McConnell: (16:24)
I suggest out [inaudible 00:16:28].
Speaker 3: (16:24)
The clerk will call the roll.
Speaker 4: (16:24)
Mr. Alexander. (silence)
Chuck Schumer: (17:27)
Speaker 3: (17:28)
The democratic leader.
Chuck Schumer: (17:29)
I ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed.
Speaker 3: (17:31)
Chuck Schumer: (17:32)
Now, Mr. President, in the Jewish tradition, only a person of great righteousness dies at the end of the year near Rosh Hashanah, because God determined that they were needed until the very end. On Friday evening, shortly after the sundown on the eve of the Jewish new year, we learned that Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman of great righteousness, a woman of valor, passed away.
Chuck Schumer: (18:06)
She was many things to many people, a brilliant mind, a quick wit, a lover of the opera, a friend, a colleague, a workout guru, a feminist icon. She might be the only Supreme Court Justice to become a meme. What began as a joke, the notorious RBG, liking a legendary rapper to an octogenarian jurist, struck a chord of deep resonance in American society because Ruth Bader Ginsburg was, in fact, a rebellious force to be reckoned with.
Chuck Schumer: (18:46)
In a male dominated legal establishment that wasn’t waiting for someone like Ruth to shake up the system, she elbowed her way through. Her brains, her strength, her fortitude changed the world for women long before the rest of the world caught up.
Chuck Schumer: (19:05)
Over the course of two decades, as an academic and general counsel for the ACLU, Ruth work to challenge the foundations of a legal system that had long treated women as a group that had to be protected and thus excluded from full participation in American life. Not only did she reverse those laws and convince the majority of the Supreme Court that the constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, she was a living, breathing example of how absurd an idea it ever was that women needed additional protections. And when she got to the court, she ruled in a manner that brought the same equality and justice to so many different people from all walks of life.
Chuck Schumer: (19:57)
The daughter of Russian immigrants who came to this country, like my own grandparents, Ruth went to the same high school as I did in Brooklyn, New York, James Madison High School, two decades before I did. I followed her career and her ascent to the bench with that special pride you feel, watching someone from your neighborhood make a great difference in the world.
Chuck Schumer: (20:22)
The fact that at the end of her long life and illustrious career, young women, and indeed young men across America, looked at Ruth Bader Ginsburg with the same sense of pride and hope and sometimes adoration, gives me great hope. May she forever rest in peace.
Chuck Schumer: (20:44)
Now Justice Ginsburg’s death leaves a vacancy on the Supreme Court with only 44 days left before a national election that could result in a different President, a vacancy that could determine the future of the Supreme Court for generations and make rulings that touch every aspect of American life.
Chuck Schumer: (21:05)
Reporters will no doubt cover the political machinations here in Washington, but for hundreds of millions of Americans, this vacancy on the Supreme Court puts everything, everything on the line. American’s right to healthcare hangs in the balance. President Trump is pursuing a lawsuit which would eliminate protections for more than 130 million Americans with preexisting conditions, send drug prices soaring for seniors on Medicare, and take health insurance away from tens of millions of people. He will nominate a justice that would ensure that result in a Supreme Court case that will be argued only a few weeks after election day.
Chuck Schumer: (21:54)
A woman’s fundamental, constitutional right to make her own medical decisions, to control her own body, her right to choose hangs in the balance. The right of workers to organize and collectively bargain for fair wages at a time of growing income inequality hangs in the balance. The future of our planet, environmental protections, and the possibility of bold legislation to address climate change hang in the balance. Voting rights and the right of every American citizen to have a voice in our democracy hang in the balance. The stakes of this election, the stakes of this vacancy, concern no less than the future of fundamental rights for the American people.
Chuck Schumer: (22:46)
I was with my daughter and her wife, to celebrate the Jewish new year. And they thought to themselves and mentioned at the table, could their right to be married, could marriage equality be undone? Those are questions hundreds of millions of Americans are asking about things near and dear to them, as this nomination hangs in the balance.
Chuck Schumer: (23:11)
That’s what it’s all about. All the rights enshrined in our constitution that are supposed to be protected by the Supreme Court of the United States. All the rights that could be undone or unwound by a conservative majority on the court. The right to join a union, marry who you love, freely exercise your right to vote, the right of a parent with a child who has cancer not to watch helpless as their son or daughter suffers without proper health care.
Chuck Schumer: (23:43)
If you care about these things and the kind of country we live in, this election and this vacancy mean everything. And by all rights, by every modicum of decency and honor, Leader McConnell and the Republican Senate majority have no right to fill it. No right. In the final few weeks, sensing her failing health, Justice Ginsburg told her family that it was her “most fervent wish” that she not be replaced until the new President is installed. That was justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish, her most fervent wish that she should not be replaced until a new President is installed. The Senate Republican majority should have no problem adhering to Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish. Leader McConnell held a Supreme Court vacancy open for nearly a year, in order to “give the people a voice” in selecting a Supreme Court justice.
Chuck Schumer: (24:51)
I just heard the remarks of the Republican leader. It’s obvious why he is so, so defensive. This is what Leader McConnell said in 2016, mere hours after the death of Justice Scalia, his words. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy shall not be filled until we have a new President.” No amount of sophistry can change what McConnell said then. And it applies even more so now, more so, so much closer we are to an election. In an op-ed on February 18th, 2016, with Senator Grassley, Leader McConnell wrote, “Given that we are in the midst of a Presidential election process, we believe the American people should seize the opportunity to weigh in on whom they trust to nominate the next person for a lifetime appointment to the court.” In the midst of an election process, February before the election, but now we are not? Now these words don’t apply? Doesn’t pass the smell test in any way. No wonder Leader McConnell was so defensive in his comments.
Chuck Schumer: (26:14)
At a press conference on March 1st, 2016, Leader McConnell said, “We will look forward to the American people deciding who they want to make this appointment through their own votes.” And on the floor, March 16, 2016 McConnell said, “Our view is this. Give the people a voice in filling the vacancy.” That was eight months, more than eight months, from a national election. This is 44 days. The Senate has never confirmed a nominee to the Supreme Court this close to a Presidential election. If that was how Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans justified their mindless obstruction of President Obama’s nominee, surely they must abide by their own standard.
Chuck Schumer: (27:06)
What’s fair is fair. What’s fair is fair. A senator’s word must count for something. Senator McConnell has come to the floor numerous times to say, “Your word is the currency of the realm in the Senate.” That “it is important for all senators to keep their word, but it’s particularly important for the majority leader.” Leader McConnell said those things.
Chuck Schumer: (27:34)
My friend, the distinguished chairman of the judiciary committee, sensed that this situation might arise and made it crystal clear how he would behave if the shoe were on the other foot. He said, “I want you to use my words against me.” If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, “Let’s let the next President, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”
Chuck Schumer: (28:03)
The next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination. He reiterated that view less than two years ago and encouraged the audience to, “Hold the tape,” for exactly this situation. No wonder Americans have so little faith in government and in this Senate led by the Republican majority. We now know the entire thing was a farce, not a shred of credibility to those arguments. We have the exact scenario that Chairman Graham talked about, a Republican president and a Supreme Court vacancy in the last term, last year of the first term. Indeed, it’s almost the last month of his first term. “I want you to use those words against me,” he said. “You can say Lindsey Graham said the next president, whoever it might be, should make the nomination.”
Chuck Schumer: (28:57)
Well, here we are. And despite these words, despite their supposedly noble principle, that the American people should have a voice in the decision of the next Supreme Court Justice, President Trump, Leader McConnell, Chairman Graham have already announced they will ignore their own standard and will rush to confirm a new justice before the next president is installed. A justice that could tear down Justice Ginsburg’s life works and other critical laws like the Affordable Care Act. The kind words and lamentations we just heard from the majority leader about Justice Ginsburg are totally empty, totally meaningless, if he moves to appoint someone who will tear down everything Justice Ginsburg built.
Chuck Schumer: (29:54)
Leader McConnell put the Senate on pause for over four months while COVID-19 devastated our country. But now he will move earth and heaven and ignore all principle and consistency to install a new Supreme Court Justice who could rip away Americans’ healthcare in the middle of a pandemic. Leader McConnell and Chairman Graham have made a mockery of their previous position. They seem ready to show the world their word is simply no good. It’s enough to make your head explode. And then to hear Leader McConnell up on the floor, trying to defend this. Pathetic, pathetic.
Chuck Schumer: (30:37)
Why even bother constructing a pretense for your position? Why say it’s this rule or that rule, and then do the exact opposite when it suits your interests? Why not just come to the floor and say, “I’m going to do what’s ever best for my political party. Consistency be damned, reason be damned, democracy be damned.” Just admit it. There’s no shaping the cravenness of this position. But over the course of the debate, I know the Republican leadership is going to try. We’re going to hear some crazy things from the other side to defend the indefensible and justify this unjustifiable power grab. We’ve heard some of it already a few minutes ago. We’re going to hear a series of preposterous arguments. That it has somehow has to do with the orientation of the Senate and the presidency, as if that constitutes some legitimate principle. We’ll hear that Republicans have to do it because Democrats will do far worse, unnamed things in the future.
Chuck Schumer: (31:43)
Some, some few on that side, will at least have the dignity of putting their head down and plowing through it because they know there is no reason, no reason, no argument, no logic to justify flipping your position 180 degrees and calling it some kind of principle. It is not. It is utterly craven, an exercise in raw political power and nothing, nothing more.
Chuck Schumer: (32:13)
And I worry, I worry for the future of this chamber if the Republican majority proceeds down this dangerous path. If a Senate majority over the course of six years, steals two Supreme Court seats using completely contradictory rationales, how could we expect to trust the other side again? How can we trust each other, if when push comes to shove, when the stakes are the highest, the other side will double cross their own standards when it’s politically advantageous.
Chuck Schumer: (32:47)
Tell me how, tell me how this would not spell the end of this supposedly great deliberative body, because I don’t see how. There’s only one way, one way for this chamber to retain its dignity through this difficult chapter. There’s only one way for us to have some hope of coming together again, trusting each other again, lowering the temperature, moving forward. And that is for four brave Senate Republicans to commit to rejecting any nominee until the next president is installed. That was Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish, and it may be the Senate’s only last hope. I yield the floor.
Mitch McConnell: (33:44)
This morning business is closed. Under the previous order, the Senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report.
Speaker 4: (33:54)
Nomination, the judiciary, Edward Hulvey Meyers of Maryland, to be a judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims.
Patrick Leahy: (34:07)
Mitch McConnell: (34:09)
The Senator from Vermont.
Patrick Leahy: (34:20)
Mr. President, I, many here with an incredibly heavy heart. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a tireless, legendary champion of equality who has shaped our society for the better passed away on Friday, first eve of Rosh Hashanah. Adherents of the Jewish faith believe that a person who passes away during the high holidays is a person of a great righteousness. Well, truer words could not be spoken of Justice Ginsburg. Standing at just over five feet tall, she was a giant among this immoral beacon, who’s life and legacy have inspired millions of Americans to do their part, to bring about it more perfect and just union. We’re all forever indebted to her.
Patrick Leahy: (35:19)
Brooklyn born daughter of working class Jewish parents, young girl would become just the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Knew from early on, she’d have to fight for her place in the world. And what a fighter she was. When she entered Harvard Law School in 1956, just one of nine women in a class of over 500, the United States was truly a man’s world. Women were expected to stay home and out of the workplace. Even when they had jobs, they could be fired for getting pregnant, and they otherwise earned barely half of what men earned for the same work. Women couldn’t get credit cards without their husband’s consent. As Justice Ginsburg would remark some years later, these and other gender based rules helped to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage, and Justice Ginsburg refused to accept the status quo.
Patrick Leahy: (36:27)
She believed unwaveringly that equal justice under law fundamentally required gender equality. When she joined the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project in the early 1970s, she waged a systematic legal campaign against gender discrimination, and she ultimately won five out of the six of the cases she took to the Supreme Court. She eloquently and incisively convinced the then all male court to see and strike down the visible and invisible lines that kept the genders unequal.
Patrick Leahy: (37:08)
In Reed v. Reed, she convinced the Supreme Court for the very first time that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment barred discrimination on the basis of sex, and that enshrined constitutional protections for generations of women and men. And during oral arguments, she spoke quietly and confidently, piercing through dense legal arguments with moral clarity.
Patrick Leahy: (37:42)
In Frontiero v. Richardson, in which she convinced the court to end gender discrimination in the administration of military benefits, her words resonated powerfully today. She said, “In asking the court to declare a sex a suspect criteria, I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brother is that they take their feet off our necks.”
Patrick Leahy: (38:17)
And within a few short years, Justice Ginsburg had already empowered millions of American women through her zealous advocacy, granting them more autonomy over their lives, their bodies, and their careers. She was widely hailed as the Thurgood Marshall of women’s rights. She could have simply rested on her laurels from that point forward, but she was just getting started. In 1980, President Carter nominated her to be an appellate judge on the DC Circuit, and I was so proud to vote for her confirmation back then, back 40 years ago. There, she developed a reputation as a pragmatic consensus seeker, often finding common ground and building friendships with conservative judges. One of the best known of those friendships was hers and Justice Antonin Scalia.
Patrick Leahy: (39:27)
So there’s no surprise, in 1993, President Bill Clinton selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. He called her and I’m rather proud to say she and her husband were visiting Vermont, my home state, when she received the call.
Patrick Leahy: (39:50)
I still vividly remember her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She is the embodiment of humility and grace and strength and wisdom. She endured four long days of at times, intense questioning from Senators of both sides of the aisle. Never once did she lose her poise. I remember that so well. I thanked her for fighting for a world in which my daughter would have opportunities equal to those of my two sons. Not surprisingly, she was confirmed by a six to three vote, becoming just the second woman to ascend to our nation’s highest court. My vote for her confirmation to the Supreme Court is among the most consequential and impactful I have cast as a Senator.
Patrick Leahy: (40:57)
This weekend, my wife Marcelle and I drove here to the Capitol. We walked over to the Supreme Court. We saw all the people around, writing notes in chalk on the sidewalk, praising her, leaving flowers, leaving pictures. I saw so many. I was struck really by the number of teenagers and people probably in their early twenties who were just standing there sadly and saying, I talked to a couple of them, we’re all wearing our masks. I’m sure they had no idea who I was. And I talked to them. They all said in one word or another, she was our inspiration.
Patrick Leahy: (41:45)
I think of my own daughter. When, a year ago, Justice Ginsburg was being honored by a congressional group against cancer. She asked my wife to introduce-
Patrick Leahy: (42:02)
She asked my wife to introduce her. My wife’s a cancer survivor. My wife brought as her guest our daughter, and they sat there. Our daughter’s told me so many times the most meaningful times in her life, to sit with a woman who had always been her hero. Marcelle and I just stood there in silence and thought of the memories of the times we’d been with her, of what she has done for this country. Because over the course of nearly three decades, Justice Ginsburg secured her place is one of the most ardent defenders of equal rights for all Americans in Supreme Court history.
Patrick Leahy: (42:46)
She never tired of being a voice for the voiceless. She always tried to use her power, her power, to uplift the powerless. She authored the landmark majority opinion in United States versus Virginia, which struck down the Virginia Military Institute male-only admissions policy as being unconstitutional. Her words still read like a treatise of what equality must mean in America. “Laws or policies are presumptively invalid,” she wrote it. “They deny it to women simply because they are women. Equal opportunity to aspire, to achieve, and participate in and contribute to society.” And I think of my wife, I think of my daughter, I think of my three wonderful granddaughters.
Patrick Leahy: (43:49)
And even when she was in the minority justice Ginsburg did not go quietly. She always left an impact. In the Lilly Ledbetter case where the majority ruled the claim of unequal pay was barred by an arbitrary statute of limitations, Justice Ginsburg retorted, the majority “does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.” She then urged Congress to correct the courts parsimonious reading. And two years later, we did just that, we passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a copy of which she proudly hung in her chambers, a bill that I was so proud to help bring to fruition on the floor of this body.
Patrick Leahy: (44:46)
In Shelby County versus Holder, the disastrous decision to invalidate key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Ginsburg’s dissent spoke truth to power. She wrote the [inaudible 00:45:01] key provisions of the Voting Rights Act when it has worked to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet. And of course, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was right. And since that decision, we’ve witnessed a turn to voter suppression laws because the Supreme Court did not listen to her. That’s why I’ve championed the bipartisan John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore the Voting Rights Act. These drives for change, and many others, often began with two words from the Justice, or in the [bejeweled 00:45:53] car, “I dissent.”
Patrick Leahy: (45:59)
All the greatness of Justice Ginsburg was matched in [inaudible 00:46:03] by her authentic goodness. Always a member of the Action for Cancer Awareness event. I mentioned that earlier, but she and my wife, Marcelle, spoke at that together last year. She was so genuinely kind to Marcelle and to me, to all the people she interacted with. She loved people, so it’s not surprising they loved her right back. It’s not surprising. We saw tears in people who knew her and didn’t know her as we stood in front of the Supreme Court this weekend.
Patrick Leahy: (46:44)
Justice Ginsburg became a beloved cultural icon. She inspired books, movies, even Saturday Night Live skits. And so, it teased her about that, and she took it all in good humor. Her dogged public battle of cancer, her can do attitude, in fact, she missed less than a handful of arguments despite her years long illness, inspired millions across the world. She gave hope to people she would never see, never meet, but they felt they knew her, and she gave them hope. But through it all, she never lost her humility. When asked how she she’d like to be remembered, Justice Ginsburg simply said, “Just as someone who did whatever she could, and whatever limited talents she had, to move society along in the direction I’d like it to be for my children and grandchildren.”
Patrick Leahy: (47:57)
I’m proud to stand on the floor of the United States Senate as Dean of this body, but I can say with certainty, that she’s going to be remembered for that and for so much more. She’ll be remembered long after any of us are. This incredible life and legacy should be the only story of today. But sadly, that’s not the case. Instead of simply celebrating her life and her many contributions to our society, President Trump and our Majority Leader forced our attention to turn to her vacancy on the court, this day before she’s even laid to rest. In fact, immediately after news of her passing Senator McConnell announced he would rush to replace her on the court. Even as her family are standing there mourning her, he made that announcement. He tossed aside all precedence and principals, he [inaudible 00:49:17] his intent to ram through a nominee no matter the cost.
Patrick Leahy: (49:24)
Despite all of Senator McConnell’s talk promises four years ago, when a vacancy arises 269 days before a presidential election, the American people should have a voice in deciding what president fills that vacancy. That’s what he said when President Obama was the president. We got to wait 269 days to see who wins the presidential election. But today, the Majority Leader is doing everything he can to deny the America people a voice, and this time with just 42 days, not 269 days, but 42 days remain before the presidential election. And seeking a fig leaf for the institutional cover, today, the leader is trying to conjure up yet another rule that essentially there was an unspoken exception to everything he promised in 2016. I guess I didn’t hear that unspoken exception.
Patrick Leahy: (50:34)
And apparently, the American people do not get a voice when the White House and Senate are under the control of the same party. Pay no attention to the fact that this contradicts everything Leader McConnell and many other Republicans claim to believe ad nauseum for 10 months in 2016. But even this desperate hairsplitting falls flat on its face. [inaudible 00:50:59] the Majority Leader’s 2016 rule, let the American people decide, only applies when there is a divided government, and the unprecedented 10 months blockade of Merrick Garland contradicted the confirmation of Justice Kennedy nominated by a Republican president and confirmed by a Democratic Senate during election year in 1988. And I was one of the Democrats who voted for this Republican nominee, as did virtually every other Democrat.
Patrick Leahy: (51:38)
The Majority Leader’s [inaudible 00:51:40] is not about following precedent. It certainly isn’t about principle. The blatant hypocrisy, believes the norms and principles apply only to the other party, or only apply when nothing is at stake, is a result of something even more insidious, is the direct result of the president and the Majority Leader wanting to bend the course of their will no matter the cost, at no matter the cost for the Senate, and certainly, no matter the cost for all our courts across the country.
Patrick Leahy: (52:20)
I have much more to say about this. Make no mistake, the actions we’re taking during these waning days of the Trump administration will forever stain, or redeem, this institution in which we proudly serve, depending upon whether they go along with this or not. The 100 members of this body represent 313 million Americans. We’re entrusted to act in their best interests, and to our actions in the weeks ahead, we risk forever eroding the American people’s trust and faith in our independent judiciary. And our actions have a lasting impact for good or for ill on every American’s most basic rights, rights of equality and fairness, that Justice Ginsburg spent her lifetime securing.
Patrick Leahy: (53:29)
We all know what we should do. We all know how we can make the United States Senate be as it should be the conscience of the nation. I fear we’re willing to close America’s door on that conscience. But today, I simply seek to honor Justice Ginsburg. She dedicated her life to the causes of equality and justice made both a reality for millions of Americans. She’s left us a rich legacy to cherish, more importantly to carry forward, will be forever in her debt a generation. Actually, who I saw standing at the steps of the Supreme Court, more than a generation of women and all Americans have been inspired by her leadership and courage. Generations to come will have her trailblazing legacy to thank. Let’s honor her memory by following her example by recommitting ourselves to pursuing a more perfect union, not just for the few. No, not just for the few, but for all Americans. Madam President, I yield the floor. I suggest the [inaudible 00:55:11] of a quorum.
Madam President: (55:11)
The clerk will call the roll.
Speaker 6: (55:14)