McConnell Speaks Before Senate Confirms Judge Barrett
‘The Senate will render one of the most consequential judgements it can ever deliver. We will approve a lifetime appointment to our nation’s highest court. Since the ink dried on the Constitution, only 114 men and women have been entrusted to uphold the separation of powers, protect people’s rights, and dispense impartial justice on the Supreme Court. In a few minutes, Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana will join their ranks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Judge Amy Coney Barrett:
“The Senate will render one of the most consequential judgements it can ever deliver.
“We will approve a lifetime appointment to our nation’s highest court.
“Since the ink dried on the Constitution, only 114 men and women have been entrusted to uphold the separation of powers, protect people’s rights, and dispense impartial justice on the Supreme Court.
“In a few minutes, Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana will join their ranks.
“This body has spent weeks studying the nominee’s record. We’ve examined fifteen years of scholarly writings. About one hundred opinions from the Seventh Circuit. And testimonials from legal experts running the gambit from close colleagues, to total strangers.
“There have been one on one meetings for every Senator who wanted one. And a week of intensive hearings.
“All of it has pointed to one conclusion: this is one of the most brilliant, admired, and well-qualified nominees in our lifetime. Intellectually, Judge Barrett is an absolute all-star.
“She graduated number one in her class at Notre Dame Law School. She clerked on the second highest federal court and the Supreme Court. Then she returned to her alma mater and became an award-winning academic.
“Judge Barrett’s mastery of the Constitution gives her a firm grasp on the judicial role.
“She has pledged to ‘apply the law as written, not as she wishes it were.’ Her testimony, her writings, and her reputation confirm a total commitment to impartiality.
“And the nominee’s personal integrity and strength of character are literally beyond reproach.
“She earned the highest rating from the left leaning American Bar Association.
“They marveled at the, quote, ‘breadth, diversity, and strength of the positive feedback [they] received from judges and lawyers of all political persuasions.’
“If confirmed, this daughter of Louisiana and Indiana will become the only current justice with a law degree from any school not named Harvard or Yale.
“She’d be the first mother of school-aged children to ever sit on the Court. By every account, the Supreme Court is getting not just a talented lawyer, but a fantastic person.
“We’ve heard moving testimony from former students whom Judge Barrett went out of her way to help and to mentor. Her past clerks describe an exemplary boss. Her fellow scholars describe a winsome, respectful colleague who is tailor made for the collaborative atmosphere of the Court.
“By any objective standard, Judge Barrett deserves to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.
“The American people agree. In just a few minutes, she’ll be on the Supreme Court.
Two weeks ago, a CNN journalist made this observation. ‘Let’s be honest — in another [political] age... Judge Amy Coney Barrett would be getting 70 votes or more in the U.S. Senate because of her qualifications.’
“Now, we know that’s not going to happen.
“These are not the days when Justice Scalia was confirmed 98-0 and Justice Ginsburg was confirmed 96-3. And by the way, I voted for both Ginsburg and Breyer. It seems like a long time ago now.
“We spent a lot of energy in recent weeks debating this matter. I think we can all acknowledge that both sides in the Senate have parallel oral histories about the last thirty or so years.
“Each side feels the other side struck first -- and struck worst – and has done more to electrify the atmosphere around here about confirmations.
“Now, predictably enough, I think our account is based off what actually happened. I was there, I know what happened.
“I’ve laid it out earlier, and I’ll talk about it again so the American people understand how we got to where we are.
“It was the Senate Democrats who spent the early 2000s boasting about their brand new strategy of filibustering qualified nominees from a Republican president.
“They were proud of it. They found a new way to halt the process. Stop those crazy right wing judges that Bush 43 was going to send up.
“They pioneered it because they knew what the precedent was at that point. At that point as we discussed before, it just wasn’t done. Or you could do it, but you didn’t.
“And the best evidence that you shouldn’t do it was the Clarence Thomas nomination, confirmed 52-48. And all of us know that any one of us in this body has a lot of power to object. So, if any one of the 100 senators at that time – including people who were opposed to Justice Thomas, like Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy – could have made us get 60 votes and Clarence Thomas would not have been on the Supreme Court.
“That’s how strong the tradition was, until the Democratic Leader led the effort in the early 2000s to establish the new standard.
“Well, after establishing the new standard, they got weary of it. And in 2013 the so-called nuclear option was implemented because Republicans were holding President Obama’s nominee’s to the same standard that they themselves had created.
“So, when the shoe got on the other foot they didn’t like it too much. It was too tight.
“Senate Democrats, both in 1992 and 2007, helpfully volunteered how they would have dealt with a nominee like we did in 2016.
“The then-Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden, helpfully volunteered in 1992 when Bush 41 was running for re-election, that had a vacancy occurred, they wouldn’t have filled it.
“There wasn’t a vacancy, but he just helpfully volunteered how they would deal if it if they had one.
“Well, to one-up him, Leader Harry Reid and his friend the Democratic Leader said 18 months before the end of the Bush 43 period, if a vacancy on the Supreme Court occurred they wouldn’t fill it. That’s a fact.
“What we’re talking about here are the facts of how we got to where we are,
“I understand my Democratic friends seem to be terribly persuaded by their version of all of this. All I can tell you is: I was there, I know what happened. And my version is totally accurate.
“The truth is, on all of this, we owe the country a broader discussion.
“Competing claims about Senate customs cannot fully explain where we are.
“Procedural finger pointing does not explain the torrent of outrage and threats which this nomination and many previous ones have provoked from the political left.
“There are deeper reasons why these loud voices insist it is a national crisis.
“It's a national crisis when a Republican president makes a nominee for the Supreme Court.
“Catastrophe looms right around the corner. The country will be fundamentally changed forever. When a Republican president makes a Supreme Court nominee.
“They have hauled out the very same tactics for fifty years. Some of the opposition’s more intense, but the doomsday predictions about the outcome of nominating these extremists like John Paul Stevens, David Souter?
“Why, somehow, everyone knows in advance that nominations like Bork, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett are certain to whip up national frenzies... while nominations like Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan are calm events by comparison.
“This blaring asymmetry predates our recent disputes. And it comes, my colleagues, from a fundamental disagreement on the role of a judge in our republic.
“We just have a fundamental difference of opinion. We just heard the Democratic Leader name all of these things that are threatened by this nominee. It sounds very similar to the tunes we've heard before.
“We, like many Americans, want judges to fulfill a limited role the Constitution assigns to them: Stick to text, resolve cases impartially, and leave policymaking to the people and their representatives, which is what we do here.
“We just spent four years confirming brilliant, qualified constitutionalists to the Supreme Court and lower courts who understand their roles.
“53 circuit judges, over 200 judges in total, and we're about to confirm the third Supreme Court Justice. What they all have in common -- brilliant, smart, and know what a judge is supposed to be.
“But the left thinks the framers of our country got this all wrong. They botched the job.
“The people who wrote the Constitution didn't understand what a judge ought to be. As several Senate Democrats have reaffirmed in recent days, they find it quaint and naive to think a judge would simply follow the law.
“Scalia used to say if you want to make policy, why don't you run for office? That's not what we do here.
“Gorsuch said we don't wear red robes or blue robes. We wear black robes. What they want is activist judges. They’ve made it quite clear. The Democratic Leader just a few minutes ago made it quite clear.
“So what they are looking for is a small panel of lawyers with elite educations to reason backward from outcomes and enlighten all the rest of us with their morals and political judgment. Whether the Constitution speaks to the issue or not. They know best what’s for us. No matter what the Constitution or the law may say.
“And for the last several decades, in many cases, that's what they have gotten. One activist decision after another, giving us subjective preferences of one side of the force of law.
“Across a wide variety of social, moral, and policy matters that a healthy society would leave to democratic debate, the personal opinions of judges have superseded the will of the people.
“Now, they call that a success, and they want more of it.
“President Obama actually was refreshingly honest about this. He said he wanted to appoint judges who had empathy. Think about that for a minute. What if you are the litigant before the judge -- for whom the judge does not have empathy? You’re in tough shape. So, you give them credit for being pretty honest about this. That’s what they're looking for. The smartest, leftist people they can put to make all the decisions for the rest of us, rather than leaving it to the messy democratic process to sort these things out the way the framers intended.
“And that is clearly why we have taken on such an outsized, combative atmosphere with regard to these confirmations. That’s why they have become so contentious, because they want to control not only the legislative body but the judicial decisions as well.
“Let me just say this -- there is nothing innate about legal training that equips people to be moral philosophers.
“And incidentally, as I just said, that's why these confirmations have taken on such an outsized, unhealthy significance. The remarks we just heard from across the aisle show exactly why the framers wanted to stop the courts from becoming clumsy, indirect battlefields for subjective debates that belong in this chamber and over in the House and in state legislatures around the country.
“The left does not rage and panic at every constitutionalist judge because they will simply enact our party’s policy preferences. Any number of recent rulings make that very clear.
“Their problem is that every judicial seat occupied by a constitutionalist is one fewer opportunity for the far left to go on offense.
“At the end of the day, this is a valid debate.
“The difference of opinion on the judicial role is something the Senate and our system are built to handle. But there is something else our system cannot bear. As you have heard tonight, we now have one political faction essentially claiming they now see legitimate defeat as an oxymoron.
“Our colleagues cannot point to a single Senate rule that’s been broken. They made one false claim about committee procedure which the parliamentarian dismissed.
“The process comports entirely with the constitution.
“We don't have any doubt, do we, that if the shoe was on the other foot, they would be confirming this nominee. And have no doubt if the shoe was on the other foot in 2016, they would have done the same thing. Why? Because they had the elections that made those decisions possible. The reason we were able to make the decision we did in 2016 is because we had become the majority in 2014.
“The reason we were able to do what we did in 2016, 2018, and 2020 is because we had the majority. No rules were broken whatsoever. So all of these outlandish claims are utterly absurd, and the louder they scream, the more inaccurate they are.
“You can always tell, just check the decibel level on the other side. The higher it goes up, the less accurate they are.
“Our democratic colleagues keep repeating the word illegitimate as if repetition would make it true.
“We're a constitutional republic. Legitimacy does not flow from their feelings. Legitimacy is not the result of how they feel about it. You can't win them all, and elections have consequences.
“And what this Administration and this Republican Senate has done is exercise the power that was given to us by the American people in a manner that is entirely within the rules of the Senate and the Constitution of the United States.
“The irony indeed. Think about how many times our Democratic friends have berated President Trump for allegedly refusing to accept legitimate outcomes he does not like. How many times have we heard that? ‘President Trump won't accept outcomes he does not like.’
“Well, they're flunking that very test right before our eyes. That’s their problem. They don't like the outcome. Well, the reason this outcome came about is because we had a series of successful elections. One of our two major political parties increasingly claims that any political system that deals them a setback is somehow illegitimate.
“And this started actually long before this vacancy, as we all know. Over a year ago, Senate Democrats sent the Court an amicus brief that read like a note from a gangster film. They wrote: ‘The Supreme Court is not well… Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured’…’
In March, the Democratic Leader stood outside the Court and threatened multiple Justices by name. ‘You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions!’ ‘You will pay the price!’
“That's the Democratic Leader of the Senate in front of the Supreme Court mentioning justices by name and in effect saying, if you rule the wrong way, bad things are going to happen.
“For multiple years now, Democrats in this body and on the presidential campaign stump have sought to revive the discredited concept of court-packing.
“Every high school student in America learns about Franklin Roosevelt’s unprincipled assault on judicial independence. Now the left wants to repeat it.
“And former Vice President Biden, who spent decades condemning the idea here in the Senate, obediently says he’ll look into it.
“Most importantly, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg said last year: ‘nine is the right number.’
“That's the vacancy we're filling right now. I don't think any of them have quoted her on this issue lately, have you? Ruth Bader Ginsburg said ‘nine is the right number.’
“These latest threats follow decades of subtler attempts to take independent judges and essentially put them on political probation.
“How many consecutive nominees have Democrats and the media insisted would, quote, ‘tip the balance’ of the Court?
“Has anyone tallied up how many hard right turns the courts have supposedly taken in our lifetimes?
“All this ominous talk is a transparent attempt to apply improper pressure to impartial judges.
“Rule how we want, or we’re coming after the Court. Vote how we want, or we’ll destroy the Senate.
“These have been the Democratic demands. This is not about separation of powers.
“It’s a hostage situation.
“Elections come and go. Political power is never permanent.
“But the consequences could be cataclysmic if our colleagues across the aisle let partisan passions boil over and scorch the ground rules of our government.
“The framers built the Senate to be the nation’s firewall.
“Over and over, this institution has stood up to stop recklessness that could have damaged our country forever.
“Tonight, we are called to do that again.
“Tonight, we can place a woman of unparalleled ability and temperament on the Supreme Court.
“We can take another historic step toward a judiciary that fulfills its role with excellence, but does not grasp after power that our constitutional system intentionally assigns somewhere else.
“And we can stand loud and clear that the United States Senate does not bow to intemperate threats.
“Voting to confirm this nominee should make every single Senator proud.
“So I urge my colleagues to do just that.”
Related Issues: Judicial Nominations, Supreme Court, Senate Democrats