tv [untitled] CSPAN June 9, 2009 12:00pm-12:30pm EDT
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: madam president, what is the parliamentary situation? the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. leahy: madam president, i ask consent that the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: madam president, for the sake of my colleagues, i
want to talk about the time of the hearing of the sonia sotomayor nomination. i talked with the distinguished ranking member last week on this -- on this schedule and i would note the concerns he had raised. but i'm announcing today that the senate judiciary committee will hold the confirmation hearing on the nomination of judge sonia sotomayor to be associate justice of the united states supreme court on july 13th. that's a reasonable schedule. it will be the middle of next month. it's in line with past experience. it's going to allow several more weeks for committee members to prepare for the hearing. several more weeks that if i held the hearing this month, and there's no reason to unduly
delay consideration of this well-qualified nominee. and she deserves the opportunity to go before the public and speak of her record especially if some have mischaracterized her record or misstated her record. the only place she can speak, i say, madam president, the only place she can speak and speak of her record is in the hearing. but it's also a reasonable schedule that serves the many interests involved. of course, the first and foremost is the american people's stake in a process that is fair and thorough. but not needlessly prolonged. it serves the purpose of the institution of the united states senate who will need sufficient time to prepare for confirmation hearing. and we have a full legislative plate of additional pressing business in the weeks and months ahead. it's of great importance to our constituents and to the nation.
and then, of course, it serves the need of the third branch of government which depends on the other branches of government to fill court vacancies in our independent judiciary. in the needs of the president who nominated judge sotomayor. but less we forget serves the needs of the nominee herself, who is a judge and will only be able to speak publicly about her record when the hearings are weaned. -- convened. this is an extremely important obligation that we as the members of the senate that take on. there are only 101 people who get a direct say in the nomination and confirmation of the united states -- of a juice of the united states supreme court. first and foremost, of course, the president of the united states, and in this case president obama consulted with
numerous senators, republicans and democrats alike, prior to making his nomination. and then once the nomination is made, the 100 members of the united states senate have to stand in for 300 million americans in deciding who will get that lifetime appointment. i voted on every single member of the united states senate currently as well as some in the past. and i know how important an obligation that is. the justice who takes justice suiter's place for the court that convenience on june 5, needs as much time as possible to hire law clerks, set up an office and even a place to live here in washington and take part with the rest of the court in the prepar preppory work.
now, i mentioned that, madam president, because i have put together a schedule that tracks the process of the senate -- that the senate followed by bipartisan agreement in considering president bush's nomination of john roberts to the supreme court in 2005. at that time i served as the ranking minority member of the judiciary committee. i met with our republican chairman, we worked out a schedule providing for chief justice robert's hearing 48 days eaf waafter he was named by pret bush. i might say that that agreement and time was reached even before the committee received the answers to the bipartisan questionnaire. and while justice roberts had not -- then judge roberts had not decided as many opinions as judge sotomayor, he had been in
a policy -- a political policy position in republican administrations for years before and there were 75,000 pages of documents. in fact, some arrived almost on the eve of the hearing itself. and, of course, that nomination was replaced justice o'connor who was recognized as the pivotal vote on the supreme court. now, if something that significant required 48 days and republicans and democrats agreed were sufficient to prepare minor hearing in accordance with our agreement in the initial schedule, certainly that is a precedent that says that we have more than adequate time to prepare for the confirmation hearing for judge sotomayor. in selecting the date i'm trying
to be fair to all concerned. i want to be fair it the nominee. allow her the earliest opportunity to respond to assassinations made about her character. it is not fair for her critics to call her a racist and to be a part of the cue cru k -- in 200n president bush made his first nomination to the supreme court, senator mcconnell who is in the majority whip asserted that the senate should consider and confirm the nominations within 60 to 70 days. we worked hard to achieve that. the nomination of judge sotomayor should more easily be considered within that time frame. we were still able to complete senate consideration and the senate confirmed john roberts to
be the chief justice of the united states 72 days after he was initially designated to be an associated justice, we did this despite the fact that his initial nomination was withdrawn and only shortly before his hearing he was renominated to serve as the chief justice of the united states. and we did this despite the terrible aftermath of hurricane katrina where everybody, republicans and democrats alike, agreed that we should hold back a week on the hearings so that we could all concentrate the nation's resources on hurricane katrina. and so that required a week's delay. and then 72 days after, if we followed the same schedule 72 days after judge sotomayor was designated to the supreme court, would be august 6th, and we're
not even having the week of katrina. now, the hearing's the opportunity for all senators on the judiciary committee, both republicans and democrats, to ask questions, raise concerns, evaluate the nominee. our republican colleagues say they intend to ask her about her judicial philosophy. now, it doesn't take four months to prepare to ask these questions. in fact, most have already raised the questions. they'll be surely prepared to ask them more than a month from now. and during that month, we have a week's vacation from the senate. now i intend to use that week without the interruption of committee hearings, without the interruption of votes, without the interruption of representative business to prepare for the hearings. i would advise those senators who feel they have to have extra time, forego your vacation,
spend your week preparing for the hearing. because this is a historic nomination. this is a historic nomination. and i hope all senators will cooperate. the schedule is i think both fair and adequate. fair to the nominee, but also adequate to the united states senate to prepare for the hearing and senate consideration. there's no reason to have needless and unreasonable delay. i say this is a historic nomination, madam president, because it should unite, and not divide the american people and the senate. hers is a distinctly american story. whether you're from the south bronx or the south side of chicago or south burlington, vermont, the american dream inspires all of us. her life story is the american dream.
and so i might add is the journey of the president who nominated her. she deserves a fair hearing. not trial by attack and assaults about her character. and let us proceed to give her that fair hearing without unness delay. i have -- unnecessary delay. i have said in the senate oftentimes on the floor of this great body, that we senators should be the conscience of the nation. as we were called upon to do. and there have been occasions when this senate, republicans and democrats alike, united have shown they can be the conscience of the nation. i would say this is one time we should rise above partisanship and be that conscience when i met with judge sotomayor last week, i asked her about her approach to the law. she answered that, of course, one's life experience shapes who
you are. but ultimately and completely her words: as a judge you follow the law. there is not one law from -- for one race or another, there is not 1 color for one or another, there is not one law for those who belong to one political party or the other. there's one law for all americans. she made it very emphatic there's a judge -- as a judge you follow that one law. there is only one law. we all know that. she said ultimately and completely a judge has to follow the law no matter what their upbringing has been. that is the kind of fair and impartial judging that the american people expect. that is respect for the rule of law. that is the kind of judge she has been. judge sotomayor is
extraordinarily well equipped to serve on the nation's highest court. to borrow the phrase that the first lady used last week, not only do i believe that judge sotomayor is prepared it to serve all americans on the supreme court, i believe the country's more than ready to see this accomplished hispanic woman do just that. this is an historic nomination and it's an occasion for the senate and our great nation to come together. this is a time for us to come together. the process is another step toward the american people regaining confidence in their judiciary. our independent judiciary is considered to be the envy of the world. less abysmal than the other two branches, the judiciary is a vital part of the infrastructure that knits our nation together under the rule of law. every time, every time i've
walked up the steps to the supreme court, i look at the words engraved in marble from my native state of vermont over the entrance of the supreme court. those words say "equal justice under law." the nomination of judge sotomayor keeps faith with that motto. president obama is to be commended for having consulted with senators from both sides of the aisle. i was with him on some of the occasions he did. i've had senators come up to me, republican senators, and tell me they had never been called by a president of their own party, to say nothing about a democratic president, to talk about supreme court nominee. but president obama did call and reach out. but now the senate's duty comes to the fore. now all senators of both parties will work with me to move forward and consider this
nomination in a fair and timely manner. madam president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: madam president, i ask consent the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: madam president, i have eight unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have approval mast jort and my -- majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent these requests be agreed to and these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: madam president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. brown: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. brunmr. brown: madam presidi ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. brown brown: madam presidenn 1945, president truman delivered a speech to a joint session of congress in which he declared, "millions of our citizens do not know have the full measure of
opportunity to achieve and enswroi good health -- enjoy good health. millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. the time has arrived for action, to help them attain that opportunity and that protectio protection." that was said by president truman 10 or 11 presidents ago, perhaps, six decades ago. 64 years later, we're still fighting to provide that opportunity and that protection. a severely weakened economy, growing unemployment, rising health care and insurance costs, and declining employment-based insurance are all factors contributing to the current health care crisis. today, 47 million americans are uninsured, an additional 2 25 million, 30 million, 35 million, as many as 40 million, americans are underinsured, and many are saddled with catastrophic medical debt. closing the health care gaps would dramatically prove the public health. it would also lead
predictability to national health spending, which is essential if we are going to get health care costs under control. closing the health care gaps would dramatically reduce personal bankruptcies, more than half of which result from at that time strophi --catastrophie huge bills that go with it. think it this for a moment. most bankruptcies in this country are because people have had health insurance bills they simply can't pay. and most of those people that have those health insurance bills they can't pay, which then force them into bankruptcy, most of those people have health insurance. but it's inadequate, it's got too many gaps in it. closing the health care gaps is a short- and long-term investment in the health of americans, the health of u.s. businesses, businesses whose premiums are inflated by the cost of uncompensated care. and it's an investment in the health of our economy, which benefits from the health care industry but not from already too high health care costs further inflated by needless red tape, needless duplication,
needless indifference to health care needs that become more serious and more costly when they're not caught early. per capita health care spending in the united states is 53% higher here than that of any other nation in the world, and we're the only nation in the world whose insurance system doesn't one. so in other words, we're paying at least half again as much at least as any other country in the world per person, yet millions of americans don't have -- tens of millions of americans don't have health insurance and the outcomes, life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality, immunization rates, we're not among the world leaders in any of those categories. interestingly, madam president, the only place we are a world leader is life expectancy at 65. if you get to be 65 in this country, the chances that you will live a longer, healthier life is greater than in almost any other country in the world. in ohio, $3.5 billion is spent each year by and on behalf of
the uninsured for health care that meets about half their needs. that's no bargain. for the first time in a long time, we're on the verge of meaningful health care reform that will make a difference in the lives of americans who have for too long put up with less than they deserve when it comes to health care. our health insurance system does some things very well but we've let the industry, the health care industry, forget its own core, central purpose. the insurance industry's supposed to bear risk on behalf of its enrollees, not avoid risk at the expense of its enrollees. the insurance industry is supposed to protect the sick, not throw them overboard. the insurance industry is supposed to offer affordable coverage to every american, not expensive coverage to some americans and no coverage to the rest. the insurance industry is supposed to cover the reasonable and customary costs of health insurance and health care, not a fraction of that. the health insurance industry is supposed to cover the doctors you need, not the doctors that the insurer chooses for you.
the insurance industry is supposed to pay claims on a timely basis, not as slowly as they possibly can. who can forget then-senator obama talking about his mother in the last months of her life, how as she suffered and was dying from cancer, from terminal cancer, that she spent much of her time on the phone trying to figure out how to pay, how to collect on insurance, how to pay, how to -- how to just simply get by and not leave debt for her soon-to-be-very-famous son. the health insurance industry does some things pretty well but it gets away with too much. what do we do about it? first, we put stronger insurance rules in place. second, we introduce some good, old-fashioned competition into the insurance market. that's the purpose of a federally-backed insurance option, one the presiding officer from new york has spoken out forks as has the other senator from new york and a majority of people in this body. it's to set the bar high enough tore private insurers that they can't slip back into t