tv [untitled] CSPAN June 24, 2009 10:30am-11:00am EDT
mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: mr. majority. mr. reid: i ask that the call of the quorum be terminated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: at 11:00 today there will be a vote on the nomination of mr. koh, the attorney for the department of state. i tell all senators i had a conversation with the republican leader today. we're doing our best to move to a couple of appropriation bills. the first one online is the legislative branch appropriation bill. the next is homeland security. we hope we can get on those. the republican leader said he would do his best to help us to that. i hope that, in fact, is the case. we'll keep members advised as to what we're going to do for the
rest of the day. the presiding officer: under the previous order the leadership time is reserved. under the preefs order the senate will proceed to consider the following nomination with the -- which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination: department of state, harold koh of connecticut to be the legal adviser of the department of state. the presiding officer: under the previous order the time until 11:00 a.m. the time will be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees. a senator: mr. president? mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. mr. kerry: mr. president, i yield myself such time as i will consume. and i intend to yield time to
senators lieberman and senator feingold. but i rise in very strong support of the nomination of harold koh to be the legal adviser secretary of state. this nomination is, in fact, overdue. dean k horch was one of the foremost legal scholars in the country. a man of the highest intellect, integrity and character. received a law degree from harvard where he was an editor of the law review, two master degrees are from oxford. he clerkd on the d.c. court of appeals. united states supreme court. he has served with distinction in democratic and republican administrations. beginning his career in government, in the office of legal counsel in the reagan era. dean koh, i think that everybody who has dealt with him and worked with him on a personal level understands the skill that he would bring to this job.
he's worked with the state department on a first-hand basis. served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. in the clinton administration, a post for which he was unanimously confirmed by the senate in 1998. he left government to teach at yale law school and went on to serve as dean until his nomination to serve in the current administration. as a renowned scholar and a leading expert on international law, he has published or co-authored eight books over 150 articles. an throughout his career, dean koh has been a fierce defender of the rule of law and human rights. he understands that the united states benefits as much, if not more than any other country, from an international system of law where we are governed by the rule of law. at the same time his personal commitment to america's security and to the defense of our constitution are indisputable.
accusations that his views on international or foreign law would somehow undermine the constitution are simply unjustified, unfounded, completely and totally. as dean koh explained in response to a question from senator lugar, who supports his nomination. he said: my family settled here in part to escape from oppressive law. and it was america's law and commitment to human rights that drew us here and have given me every privilege in my life that i enjoy. my life's work represents the lessons learned from that experience. throughout my career, both in and out of government, i have argued that the u.s. constitution is the ultimate controlling law in the united states and that the constitution directs whether and to what extent international law should guide courts and policymakers. so, mr. president, while legal -- while disagreements on legal theory are obviously legitimate, i really regret that some of the accusations and insinuations
against dean koh have simply gone over any line of reasonableness or decency. some people have actually alleged that dean koh supports the imposition of islamic law here in america, which -- i mean it -- it just begs any notion of relevance to what's rational. some have questioned dean koh for allegedly supporting suits against bush administration officials involved in abusive interrogation techniques. well, this is matter for the justice department that he will have no rule in as legal adviser to the state department. others have actually gone so far as to claim, believe it or not, that he is against mother's day. and i'm happy to say that his mother was at the hearing and he pointed to her and had to go so far as to actually deny that, which is rather extraordinary. dean koh deserves a better
debate than he has been given thus far, mr. president. and all of us, really are done a disservice when the debate gets diverted to some of the accusations that we've heard in this case. regardless of any policy differences, everyone in the united states senate really ought to be able to agree on dean koh's obvious competence. we've received and outpouring of support for this nomination from all corners, including over 600 law professors, over 100 law school deans, over 40 members of the clergy, seven former state department legal advisers, including the past two legal advisers from the bush administration and many others. perhaps most remarkable has been the enthusiastic support for dean koh from those who don't agree with him on some issues. who have spoken out on his behalf including former solicitor general ted olson and
former white house chief of staff joshua bolton. no less a conservative legal authority than ken starr wrote: the president's nomination of harold koh deserves to be honored and respected. for our part as americans who love our country, we should be grateful that such an extraordinarily talented lawyer and scholar is willing to leave the deanship at his beloved yale law school and take on this important but sacrificial form of service to our nation. so, mr. president, i think that says it all. that's the kind of legal advisor we need at the state department. i urge my colleagues to support this nomination and to vote for cloture on this nomination. i would yield -- how much time do we have on our side? at least another 15 minutes. the presiding officer: 3 minutes and 40 seconds. mr. kerry: that's the total time we have available? the presiding officer: that's the total time remaining, controlled by the majority.
mr. kerry: i divide it evenly between senator lieberman and senator feingold. mr. lieberman: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. lieberman: i thank the chair. i ask unanimous consent that my full statement be entered into the record as if read and i'll speak briefly. i rise to speak on behalf of of the nomination of harold koh. i speak from a real depth of personal spaoefrpbs with harold koh. i know him and have known him for years as a friend and a neighbor in new haven, connecticut. and based on that and all his professional work, there is no doubt in my mind that he is profoundly qualified to occupy this important position as legal advisor at the department of state. he's a brilliant scholar. he's one of america's foremost experts on international law. he actually is qualified to be the legal advisor to the secretary of state. he has a distinguished record of service in our government,
having worked in both democratic and republican administrations, consistently won the highest regard from people across the political spectrum. harold koh will bring to this position a deep devotion to our country and the appreciation of the fundamental values for which we stand based on his status, personal status as the child of immigrants who came to this country, escaping dictatorship and seeking freedom and contributing mightily to america. harold has been a prolific scholar in the course of his long academic career, has fully exercised his right of free speech. to tell the truth, mr. president, there have been occasions when harold has said or written things that i personally don't agree with. although he's too gracious to say so, i'm sure there have been occasions on which i've centered on some things that harold has
not agreed with. but that has never interfered with my -- the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut, your time has expired. mr. lieberman: -- admiration for him because i've always known, regardless of whether we agree or disagree that harold koh is committed to the united states of america, to the constitution and the rule of law. and what more could we ask for a legal advisor to the department of state? i thank the chair and yield the floor. mr. feingold: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. mr. feingold: i ask my full statement be placed in the record. i'm pleased to rise in spropbg support of the tphoplg nation of harold koh. i've known dean koh for more than 30 years. he is an excellent choice for this position. i say that not just because he's one of my oldest friends but because he's one of the leading legal scholars in the country. he's extraordinarily qualified for this position. mr. president, dean koh is one of the most intelligent, ethical and hard-working individuals i've ever encountered. he spent his career, some 30
years, working on public and private international law, national security law, and on human rights. throughout that time, he's been committed to america's security and to defending our constitution. he's dedicated his life to upholding the rule of law and strengthening american values. during his confirmation hearing, the senate foreign relations committee, dean koh effectively responded to all the charges against him. he made clear that he understands that his role as legal counsel for the state department would be different from that of an academic, that he would adhere to the constitution the laws of our land and that of course he does not believe that foreign law could trump the constitution. mr. president, there is no doubt in my mind that dean koh will candidly and objectively advise the secretary of state on existing law while ensuring she receives competent and objective and honest advice. i thank the chair and yield the floor. mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: i ask unanimous consent that four law clerks
from our staff: christina campbell, nick roscoe and row bettera valenzuela be granted floor privileges throughout this session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: i rise to speak against the nomination of harold koh to be legal advisor to the state department. i had a chance to explain some of those yesterday. and for the benefit of our colleagues, i'd like to cover those and some additional concerns as well, with a little more detaeufplt there's no question that dean -- detail. there's no question that dean koh is a brilliant lawyer, and he has been a charming advocate for his promotion to this important position. but i've concluded that he is not the right person for this job. because he has stated what i would consider to be radical views with regard to the role of the united states sovereignty
relative to the rest of the world. for example, he's advocated judges using treat kwraos in customary -- treaties in customary law including treaties the united states has not ratified, to bind the united states. if that's not an erosion of u.s. sovereignty, i don't know what it is. and advocating that judges who take an oath to uphold the constitution and laws of the united states should instead look to international treaties as a source of that law, to me, is a radical and very fundamental shift in what i think most people would expect from our judges. he said that federal judges should use their power to vertically enforce or dough mess indicate american law with -- domesticate international law. do we want the top advisor at the state department supporting the idea that international bodies and unelected federal
officials -- not the u.s. congress -- should be the ultimate law-making authority for the american people? i don't think so. now, this has manifested itself in a number of ways. for example, in a interview that dean koh gave on may 10 of -- for the "news hour" he said that he was asked about, for example, some of the interrogations that took place in places like guantanamo. and he basically said that the u.s. forces, including our commanders and presumably the intelligence officials that actually conducted interrogations and detentions, violated the geneva conventions and should be held accountable for that. does he really believe that u.s. officials should be prosecuted and perhaps convicted of war
crimes because they did what the american people asked them to do, consistent with legal opinions from the office of legal counsel at the justice department? i think it, as "the wall street journal" points out today, in an article called "the pursuit of john yew." i'll read a couple of sentences from it. here's a political thoughtrbgs permit. imagine terrorists stage an attack on u.s. soil in the next four years and the recriminations afterward, administration officials are sued by families of victims for having advised in legal memos that guantanamo be closed and that interrogations of al qaeda detainees be limited. should these officials be personally liable for the advice they gave to president obama? the article goes on to say, we would say, no, but that's exactly the kind of lawsuit that
the political left, including state department nominee harold koh, has encouraged against bush administration officials. and, of course, it goes on to talk about the lawsuit brought by jose padilla, convicted terrorist, against lawyers at the office of legal counsel, the justice department, that is being encouraged, if not facilitated, by harold koh, the outgoing dean of the yale law school, the person who is being proposed for promotion as a legal advisor at the justice department. i just think it's -- his views are, if they were confined to academia and yale law school, it would be one thing. but the thought that he would then bring -- put these, what i would consider to be kwrouft mainstream legal -- out of of the mainstream legal theories as an advisor at the state department, to me, is a
frightening prospect. he's also, in the course of his writings, taken a very extreme view with regard to the second amendment to the constitution of the united states, part of our bill of rights. the right to keep and bear arms. in 2002 and later in fordham law review in may 2003, he wrote an arld called "the world drowning in guns," in which he argued for a global gun control regime. do we really want the top advisor at the state department working through diplomatic circles to take away americans' second amendment rights to the constitution? i think not. third, professor koh in 2007 argued that foreign fighters, detainees, held by the united states armed forces anywhere in the world -- not just at guantanamo bay -- are entitleed to habeas corpus review in u.s.
federal courts and civilian courts just like afpb -- an american citizen would be. do we want the top advisor at the state department working to grant terrorists and enemy combatants more rights than they have ever had before under any court interpretation? i think not. perhaps most timely, professor koh appears to draw moral equivalence between the iranian regime's political suppression and human rights abuses that we've been watching play out on television and america's counterterrorism policies, on the other hand. in 2007 he wrote, the united states cannot stand on strong footing attacking iran for illegal detentions when similar charges can be and have been lodged against our own government. do we really want a legal advisor to the state department who can't see the difference between america defending itself against terrorism and the brutal repression practiced by a
theocratic dictatorship? i think not. mr. president, i'm afraid that dean koh is just another in a line of radical nominees by this administration that the senate should not confirm. i think back to don johnson, who was also nominated to the office of legal counsel, who said america is not at war post-9/11. and that instead of a, instead of embracing the provisions of the constitution that recognize the president's powers as commander in chief to protect the american people, we ought to instead resort to a paradigm that says, well, this is really just a law enforcement matter. if it's a hraurplt matter, then you're -- law enforcement matter, you're going to prosecute the terrorists after they kill innocent life. and just like don johnson, who
said we're not at war, harold koh has encouraged and facilitated the investigation and perhaps prosecution of american military personnel and who knows who else, including lawyers who have provided legal advice as well as perhaps the intelligence officials that relied on that advice to get actionable intelligence that we've used to deter and indeed to defeat terrorist attacks on our own soil. so i hope my colleagues will join me in voting against cloture on this nomination. professor koh may be an appropriate individual for some other job, but when our national security is at stake, when our role relative to the international community, whether we're going to subject ourselves not just to the u.s. constitution and laws made by the elected representatives of the people here in the congress,
but instead to international treaties and international common law that we have not agreed to, that the american people have not consented to. i think this is the wrong job for this nominee, and i would ask my colleagues to join me in voting against cloture. i yield the floor and i reserve the balance of our time. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. specter: i ask consent that i might speak for two minutes. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. specter: mr. president, i have sought recognition to strongly support the nomination of dean koh for this position. i have known dean koh from his outstanding work at the yale law school and from his outstanding contribution as the dean of the yale law school. he comes to this position with an extraordinary