tv Democrats Continue Filibuster Threats as U.S. Senate Formally Begins... CSPAN April 4, 2017 8:15pm-10:00pm EDT
that peace tree. that peace tree is just on the verge of becoming the tallest tree on the grounds, planted in 1985 so it's now 32 years old. and let's hope that as it becomes the tallest tree, it will have kind of a biblical influence and bring more peace to a world in desperate need of it. but we need more of that peace tree influence here in this chamber. that influence is sorely lacking the type of cooperation between democrats and republicans that existed doesn't exist today, and we are here at this very moment on a tragic course to destroy the centuries had been
old tradition -- centuries-old tradition of a 60 vote majority, bipartisan majority to proceed to approve a nominee to the supreme court. both that tradition ensures presidents don't nominate from extremes and it ensures hopefully that the folks who serve will serve the constitution, that we the people constitution, not some ideological extreme to the right or to the left. so i want to go back to the core premises of why i'm here tonight talking to the chamber, sharing these thoughts with all those who are watching the chamber. and that is we must recapture the type of cooperation and bipartisanship that made this chamber able to address the
problems facing america. ma hat ma gandhi said if you simply operate by the premise of an eye for an eye, the whole world is blind. well, if we operate on the premise of the senate that we are never going to work together to solve problems because we are different parties or a different party than the president and we want to make sure the president doesn't get any credit for having helped improve a situation, then all of us suffer from the broken existing policies, the dysfunction of existing policies, the poison of the super partisanship. so let's go back to the basic premises on which we need to
address. the three premises. the first is that this seat is a stolen seat. can you put back up the chart with nine justices? here's the story in a nutshell. 16 times in our history there was an open seat during an election year. 15 times the senate acted. 12 of those times they confirmed the justice, and three of those they rejected the justice. but the point is 15 out of 15 times before antonin scalia died and merrick garland was nominated by president obama, the senate acted. here is nine of those. these are the nominations that occurred like merrick garland in which the vacancy and the nomination occurred before the
election. they are most similar to the situation of merrick garland. and then there were another seven under more difficult circumstances where the nomination did not occur until after the election, and the senate had very little time in which to vet and make a decision. but they did make a decision, each and every case until last year when the majority said we will not consider the president's nominee. we will not hold a hearing. we will not hold a vote. we will discourage folks from even talking to him. we will not exercise our advice and consent responsibility. that's the first big issue. the second big issue is that the nominee himself is from the extreme right.
there was a chart that shows -- and we don't have it with us. maybe we'll have it later tonight. it is a chart that shows the distribution of decisions, and it has basically two curves with a big, kind of bell curves with a big gap in between. it goes up, it comes down. it goes up and it comes down. and in it reflects the ideological division of the court from decisions they have made. and on this chart the folks analyzing these decisions said where would merrick garland be? would he be in the we the people bell curve of decision making? would he be in the we the privileged and powerful bell curve? and they found not only would he be in the we the powerful bell curve but his position on the curve would be to the far right
of the curve. and as i mentioned in the analysis earlier by "the washington post," this is an individual who was rated by the professional analysts as being more conservative than anyone who serves on the court. and i went through a series of cases -- and i'll be going through them again as the night wears on, in which he twisted the law to find for the powerful over the individual time and time and time again. someone who is way outside the judicial mainstream and who twists the law to find for the powerful over the people doesn't belong in the supreme court of america. so that's the second big problem. the third big problem is that the president's team is under investigation for collaborating with the russians interfering in our november general election. this is a very serious question.
there is a very dark cloud over the legitimacy of the election and, therefore, the legitimacy of this president. if president trump worked to conspire with the russians or his team conspired with the russians at his direction or his knowledge, that is traitorous conduct because the russians attack the fundamental institutions of our country trying to delegitimize and change the outcome of our election and conspiring with the foreign power to attack the foundation of our democratic republic, that is traitorous conduct. we have to get to the bottom of it. and we shouldn't be considering on this floor a nominee under that set of circumstances. let's complete the investigation, find out what went on, and when the cloud --
if the cloud clears, then we can proceed. so those are the three substantial, substantial issues for why we should not be here considering this nominee. the stories i was sharing with you about how i first came to the senate as an intern for senator hatfield and then came back to capitol hill working for a think tank sponsored by congress, the congressional budget office, my responsibility was to analyze the impacts of various potential strategies in the deployment, development and deployment of our strategic triad, our nuclear triad. we have air delivered and ballistic missile delivered, land based ballistic missile delivered weapons. we have submarine-launched weapons. that's the triad. that was my job to consider the implications of the paths we might go on.
what were the budgetary implications, performance implications, what were the implications for deterrents or circumstances that might trigger a nuclear war. i was back here on capitol hill in that capacity. what i saw was a senate so fundamentally different than the one we have today. i was reminded of this when back in 2013 i was working to bring a bill to the floor called the employment nondiscrimination act. this is an act that president -- not president kennedy. senator kennedy, senator ted kennedy sponsored and if i recall right first sponsored in 1994. two years later, i believe it was in 1996 it was considered on the floor of this senate. and it lost by one vote. it lost 50-49. and the senator who is missing, is believed would have voted for
it and the vice president breaking a tie would have voted for it. but people felt, it will be back up before the senate soon enough. now a point here is that the vote was a simple majority in that setting, and the filibuster was reserved for very rare circumstances. this happened to be a bill related to ending discrimination for our lgbt community in employment. and anything involving a social social -- what somebody might construe as a social issue is one that many people have politicized greatly. this was simply an issue of fairness in employment. but nobody required a supermajority closed debate. they reserved the supermajority for profound principles.
and it was exercised very rarely. so since this body can function because it was primarily a simple majority organization. and when i was covering the tax act of 1976, the issues on these amendments that came up one after another, seemed like every hour, simple majority votes. a lot of bipartisan cooperation. we've become so polarized, we've become so divided, and this nomination and this hearing right now are going to reverberate through the decades to come as the lowest point, the biggest failure of this institution. now we do have the power to prevent that from happening
because we haven't yet voted on closing debate and yet we have just a short period of time to set this nomination aside. set it aside, tell the president you need to heal this institution and the court by nominating merrick garland. set it aside because the nominee, neil gorsuch, is from the radical right-wing fringe out of the tradition of having mainstream justices. set it aside because there's enormous cloud over president trump as to whether he is a legitimate president given the investigations into the conspiracy with russia. for all those reasons, set it aside. also set it aside because never before has a majority leader tried to shut down this debate with a petition to close debate
on the very first day. now it takes two days for that petition to ripen. there are folks who have said, you know, almost never is a supreme court nominee filibustered. well, it gets a little confusing because what does filibuster mean? does it mean deliberation at length? in that case we've had a lot of nominees filibustered because they have been deliberated at length. does it mean that we vote on a petition to close debate? well, that really changes the analysis because we've rarely had a petition to close debate on a supreme court nominee. and we've never had a petition to close debate on the file of the first day of the debate because of the mutual respect that all the voices would be heard and if someone was controversial enough where people want to talk for days and days and days and days, this
body heard them out. and the american people heard that conversation and responded to it, and trends developed. and eventually people said you know what? this person really is suitable, and they were confirmed. sometimes they were withdrawn by a president. the point is in rare cases was a petition filed to close debate. and yet here we have first time in u.s. history, just happened a couple hours ago, shut down the debate as fast as you can. it's the opposite of a deliberative body. when i was back here as an intern we had that age-old saying about the senate. the world's greatest deliberative body. and i saw that body. i saw people here on the floor talking to each other, listening to each other, holding a debate, voting on
amendment and immediately going to the next amendment. i remember on one occasion i mentioned that once an amendment was done there wasn't another one negotiated between the democrats and republicans so there were long periods of silence the way we operate now. no, it was the next period recognized by the chair. and the chair heard a lot of people at once, probably sent one amendment to the left side of the chamber and one to the right side of the chamber. one to a senior member. maybe one to a more junior member. but eventually because of the ex-3expeditious consideration, everyone got to have their idea considered and pretty much voted on by a simple majority. but how different that is from what's happening right now at this moment in this chamber when we are at the very peak of pointed partisanship coming from
my colleagues across the aisle. they have stole an seat, first time in u.s. history. they have proceeded to put it on the floor and for the first time in history filed immediately a petition to close debate. every 5-4 vote from here on until, who knows -- our children's children -- will be looked at and people will ask, is this a decision because of the stolen seat? would this have been a we the people decision rather than a we the powerful, if not for that stone seat? this is a huge erosion of the legitimacy of the court. do members of this chamber really want to do that kind of profound damage?
well, they will do that profound damage if the current direction continues over the next couple days. and that's a place that i don't want us to be. and, therefore, and kind of my own personal protest of where we have come to, my own request that we change direction, i plan to keep speaking for quite a while longer, as long as i'm able. and that will hopefully be at least a couple more -- a couple more hours. so i'm going to go into more depth about these issues that
i've laid out. and i'm going to start by going through each piece in a lot more detail. so where did we start? well, this journey began with judge scalia's death on february 13, a little over a year ago. and then it was a month later that the president fulfilled his responsibility under the constitution and nominated merrick garland. there were still ten months left in the administration at that time. now, earlier i heard the majority leader say, no one has ever filibustered a supreme court nominee. well, that's not quite right. there's been some filibusters and, more or less, depending on
how you define it. but what happened last year was a 293-day filibuster by my republican colleagues of merrick garland, not just an ordinary filibuster but a special sort of failure to exercise their constitutional responsibility of advice and consent. the first time in our history that a nominee was not acted on when the nominee was being considered for a seat that came open in an election year. you know, there are a few of my colleagues who like to say, well, the former vice president joe biden, he gave a speech and he said, if a seat comes open -- it was theoretical because there wasn't an open seat -- if a seat comes open in the summer of an election year, maybe we shouldn't consider it until the
intensity of the campaign has passed, meaning after the election. what we saw earlier when i pit up the chart -- and i'll put it up again -- that there were seats that opened up before an election and then the president chose -- let's just see the ones where they came up before an election and were nominated afterwards. so in these seats here, these four seats, the vacancy was before the election, in august, in may, in october, in october. the nomination didn't come until after the november election, in december, in february, december, in january. and yet the senate acted in that -- those situations. so -- no matter how you slice it, 15 times there's been an open seat, some occurring after the election and yet the senate acted on the nominees.
some occurred before the election, but the nomination didn't occur until after the election, and the then the senate acted. so biden made the point -- simple point that if the seat opens in the heat of the summer before the november election, maybe it would make sense to hold off consideration of the nominee until after the election. that's completely consistent with our history. my colleagues tried to twist it into something else, as an argument that you shouldn't consider a nominee during an election year. and of course that wasn't what biden said at all. not even close. but let me tell you, when you have to try to find one sentence from 20 years ago from one of the people who have served in the senate -- and that's the only evidence you can find to back up your case, you're not just on thin ice, you've fallen through the ice into the pond.
your argument is that weak and that terrible. and so whenever you hear my colleagues say, well, didn't the vice president when he was a senator suggest a theory that we shouldn't consider a nominee during the heat of the campaign right before an election? yes, he said it should wait until after the heat of the campaign, and it was one sentence 20 years ago from one senator. if your argument is that weak, please, try to find some better argument to make. because we're not here considering something of small importance. we're here considering an issue that has profound consequences for the integrity of the senate because i.t. the first time a seat has been stolen in -- it's the first time a seat has been steelen in u.s. history. and a huge impact on the
integrity of the supreme court. because the supreme court -- this is a court-packing scheme. and if the court is packed, it delegitimizes their decisions. so let's not pack the court. that's why i'm here speaking tonight. on february 13, the very same day that merrick -- not merrick garland's nomination occurred, but antonin scalia passed away, that very same day, the majority leader came to the floor and released a statement, a statement saying essentially, we is abouwe -- we intend to steals seat. and here's what he said, majority leader mcconnell, he said, quote, the american people should have a voice i in the selection of the next supreme court justice. therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until after we have a new president.
he reiterated opposition to any obama nominee. the day that president obama fulfilled his constitutional responsibility by standing in the rose garden and nominating merrick garland. and when our majority leader reiterated his opposition, what did he quote the one passage taken out of context from bide biden's speech 20 years ago. that was the foundation upon which he based a foundation to forego our responsibility as a senate to provide advice and consent under the constitution. one sentence out of context turning the meaning on its head from a former senator from 20 years ago. that's how weak the case was
that the majority leader presented for failing to do our constitutional responsibility. that was how we can the case was that he presented for stealing a supreme court seat in a court-packing scheme. well, he said, give the people a voice. well, the american people voted overwhelmingly for hillary clinton. she won by more thank three million -- she won by more than three million votes. she would have won by a lot more if it weren't for voter suppression. we have one party that generally believes in voter empowerment, that the foundation is we the people and that our party's citizenship is to vote. and we have one party trying to keep people from voting, voter suppression, gerrymandering, changing the shapes of districts to deprive people of a voice here in congress, changing the
dates of -- or changing the dates in which early voting can occur so people have less of an opportunity to vote, changing the location of precincts, where your voting takes place. some of the voter suppression tactician involve -- tactics involve things that are just disinformation, false information, telling people the vote has already occurred and the location has been moved when it hasn't, or the votes are going to close earlier than they're scheduled to lower class or a whole -- scheduled to close, o or a whole host of this much the people voted overwhelmingly for hillary clinton. so it would follow that the majority leader would come to this floor and say, the people voted overwhelmingly by three million votes and it would have been a lot more, so we will now consider merrick garland because he was the nominee from a democratic president, the seat
we stole. the people have spoken. we don't want the majority. we want the democrat. funny thing. that didn't happen, because the goal wasn't to give people a voice, the goal was to steal the seat and deliver it to a republican president who would nominate someone from the extreme right and pack the court undermining we the people in favor of we the powerful and the privileged. so the democrats didn't politicize the court. the republicans politicized the court. and the american people did have a voice in garland's nomination. they had the voice by voting twice for president obama. and throughout our entire history, the senate has considered the nominee from the president in power when the vacancy occurs, even when it's an election year. because that's what the
constitution tells us to do. not to steal the seat, not to pack the court. this politicization, this gamesmanship, this hypocrisy is so extreme and so dangerous. you know, i heard that some of my colleagues asked if they want their election year rule to apply to president trump that he couldn't fill a seat that comes open in the fourth year of his presidency, because that's the principle they advocated for last year, and their answer was, hmmm ... no. because there was no principle to the position.
it was a warfare tactic of partisanship to pack the court. it was an end justifies the means even if the means violates the core premise of the constitution and does deep damage to the senate and does deep damage to the court. just this past sunday while speaking to chuck todd on "meet the press," the majority leader started to walk past his statements that a supreme court shouldn't be filled in an election year. todd asked, should that be the policy going forward? are you prepared to pass a resolution saying that in an election year, any supreme court vacancy won't be filled and let it be a sense of the senate resolution that says no supreme court nominations will be considered in an even-numbered year? and the majority leader responded, that's an absurd question. why is it an absurd question
given that's the principle that election-year nominations should go to the next president? i'll tell why you it is absurd. it is absurd because it is contrary to the constitution. and so the argument mish mcconnell, my mcconnell, the top person in charge, he's right when he said it's absurd because of course we should not abandon our constitutional responsibilities. it's an absurd argument to make today and it's an absurd argument when he made it last year. and if it was only absurd and not deeply damaging, then we could all perhaps not be so deeply, deeply concerned about this situation. merrick garland's record, judge garland had more federal
judiciary experience than any supreme court nominee in our nation's history. the nominee put forward by president obama had more federal judiciary experience than any nominee in our nation's hint -- history. summa cum laude and valedictorian. after graduating he clerked for judge friendly for the u.s. court of appeals. he clerked for justice william brennan jr., united states supreme court justice. he was in private practice at arnold and porter focusing on litigation and pro bono representation of disadvantaged americans. he left his partnership for a low-level prosecutor position in the administration of george h.w. bush. in 1993, merrick garland went
to the justice department as deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division, and that's where he oversaw prosecutions in the oklahomas bombing helping bring timothy mcveigh to justice. he helped oversee prosecutions in the case against ted kaczynski, the unabomber. and the atlanta olympics bombing committed by eric robert rudolph that killed one person and injured 111. he made a name for himself in these cases by being a strictly by the book prosecutor. he insisted on obtaining subpoenas even when companies volunteered to hand over evidence. he insisted on keeping victims and relatives informed as the cases developed. he served for 19 years on the d.c. circuit court. well, that's a lot of
experience, and all that happened before he was nominated by president bill clinton in 1995 for the d.c. circuit court. he received a confirmation hearing in the senate judiciary committee in december of that year. but republicans did not schedule a floor vote on his confirmation because of a dispute over whether to fill the seat. so president clinton renominated merrick garland for the circuit court on january 7, 1997 and he was confirmed on the senate floor by a vote of 76-23 that year, in march. at the time of the consideration of merrick garland on the floor, my colleague from utah, senator hatch, had very flattering things to say about merrick garland. he said comboa quo to my knowledge -- he said, quote, to my knowledge, no one,
absolutely no one disputes the following -- this is senator hatch speaking. merrick b. garland is highly qualified to sit on the d.c. circuit court. his intelligence and his scholarship cannot be questioned. and he continued. he said i do not think there is a legitimate argument against mr. garland's nomination, and i hope our colleagues will vote to confirm him today. and then he said in all honesty, i would like to see one person come to this floor and say one reason why merrick garland does not deserve this position. and the senator went on to suggest that his colleagues who were blocking the confirmation vote were trying to obstruct his confirmation and were, quote,
playing politics with judges. i so respect the statement that my colleague from utah made in 1995 admonishing his colleagues to quit playing politics with judges. but what has happened between 1995 and 2017 over these last 22 years? a huge amplification of playing politics to the point that when merrick garland came back before this body, only a couple republicans were willing to stand up and say let's quit playing politics. and they were quickly silenced. during his 2005 confirmation hearing, chief justice john roberts remarked about serving
on the circuit court with merrick garland, quote, any time judge garland disagrees, you know you're in a difficult area. so here is a chief justice, considered one of the conservatives on the court, who is saying if you disagree with merrick garland, you're in a difficult area. you have to go and figure out why would you disagree because he's so good at working his way through the law and coming to a position of calling the balls and strikes. that's the type of respect there was for merrick garland. and this respect and admiration continued right up to his official nomination. on march 11, 2016, five days before his nomination, my senator colleague, my colleague from utah told a reporter that if president obama named judge garland, quote, who is a fine
man, unquote, to fill scalia's seat, he would be a, quote, consensus nominee unquote and there would be no question of him receiving a bipartisan confirmation. five days before the president nominated america garland. the president recognized that the senate was controlled by the republican majority. he consulted on both sides of the aisle. he chose a senator admired on both -- not a senator but a nominee admired on both sides of the aisle. standing in the rose garden on march 16 of last year, president obama officially nominated judge garland to replace the late justice antonin scalia and president obama called merrick garland the right man for the job. he deserves to be confirmed. his nomination had endorsements
from a broad range of organizations and individuals. the american bar association, the hispanic national bar ?oa ?oa -- association, eight formers solicitor general, neal katyal, gregory barr, paul clement, seth waxman, walter dellinger, drew days, kenneth starr. you recognize some of those names. some come from the right side of the spectrum, some from the left. the point was eight former solicitors general: kenneth starr, 1989 are through 1993. and drew days who followed him and dellinger who followed days and waxman who followed dellinger. olson who served from 2001 through 2004 and clement who
followed olson and gash garr and neal katyal who served in 2010 to 2011. endorsement from the american bar association standing committee on the federal judiciary rated him well qualified as a supreme court nominee, the highest rating they could give. and their evaluation of his records stated that judge garland, quote, meets the very high standards of integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament. so there you have our president, president obama, last year consulting in a bipartisan fashion, choosing a nominee who had been highly complimented by senators on both sides of the aisle. seeking to find someone straight down the judiciary mainstream. and what was the response?
of the majority leader? the majority leader of our body, our assembly here, his response was, we're going to steal this seat. it doesn't matter that this nominee is highly qualified. it doesn't matter that democrat and republican senators have complimented him highly and have high respect for him. it doesn't matter that the chief justice has enormous respect for his judicial thinking. we are going to steal this seat in hopes of being able to pack the court. that's what happened later in the day after merrick garland was nominated. the senate has always functioned by cooperation. the big element of tradition thrown in, a defining feature of the senate is a commitment to the traditions of fair play and allow us to continue functioning
to solve america's problems and politicize circumstances. this is enormously important to the success of this chamber. i had heard when i was running for the senate in 2007 and 2008, i had heard that something terrible had happened with this chamber. in the years that i had been back in oregon. and that a group had decided they would use this chamber as a weapon against any democratic president rather than as a forum to solve america's problems. and i didn't believe it. i didn't believe that the senate i saw as an intern in 1976, that i saw when i was volunteering for organizations and working here in d.c. washing dishes and waiting tables in 1977, that the senate i saw when i was a presidential fellow with a republican defense
secretary, secretary weinberger, that the senate that i saw when i worked for congress in the think tank on strategic nuclear weapon policy for the congressional budget office, i couldn't believe that a group of senators had decided to use this chamber as a weapon against the executive branch, if the executive branch happened to be from the other party. i didn't believe it. i dismissed the commentary i was hearing about what was occurring in this chained chamber. and then i arrived in 2009 and i quickly saw that i was wrong, that the stories that this chamber had been taken over by an urge to use it as a weapon against democratic presidents
had in fact been true. we all kind of were nearly knocked over when the majority leader announced that his goal was to make sure -- his top goal, his determining vision was to use this chamber to prevent president obama from being reelected. and we're sitting here going let's work together on health care policy. let's work together to make a fairer tax system. let's work together to develop the infrastructure that is so needed because the infrastructure that our parents built is wearing out. let's work to develop that infrastructure because we have new demands of a different economy. we need better bridges and better rail and better ports and better electric transmission lines. and we certainly need better
broadband, or at least broadband of some kind as a start point in rural america. those are the challenges we face. let's work together. and then i watched as a key issue was turned into a political weapon against the president, rather than working to solve problems here in america. that issue was health care. in april 2009, i was handed a brief written by frank luntz, who was a strategist for the republican team. and that brief said, whatever ideas that the democrats work to pursue on health care, here's our strategy. don't cooperate, and call it a
government take over. whatever they do. and i came here down to the floor, and i gave a floor speech in 2009. i waved around the frank luntz memo and i said this is what's wrong with america. we have millions and millions of people without access to health care in america, and instead of working together the republican strategist is saying whatever ideas to improve the health care system they come up with, oppose them and call it a government takeover. well, the democrats said you need bipartisan cooperation to get a health care bill through here, and so they held five weeks of hearings in the help committee, health, education, labor and pensions committee, and i was assigned to that committee. senator ted kennedy had assigned me to be on that committee in partnership with majority leader
harry reid. i was so happy to be on that committee, and i sat for five weeks around a square table, idea after idea presented as amendments, discussed, debated and voted on. approximately 150 republican amendments were adopted. can you imagine a committee adopting today under the control of the senate 150 democratic amendments on a major bill? adopting, not just considering. and the democrats went through every title with the television there, all of america's watching for five weeks, and that was just for the help committee. and then there was a whole another process with the finance committee in which senator baucus led a group with, i believe, senator grassley, if i'm not mistaken, and they had three democrats and three republicans, and they worked on the finance side, trying to come to a bipartisan conclusion, but
eventually frank luntz' vision won out. whatever is suggested, oppose it and call it a government takeover. that will do the most damage to the president. that was the strategy. and so the democrats said well, it looks like we're going to have to take the republican health care plan. what was the republican health care plan? the republican health care plan was to use a marketplace in which private companies would offer their insurance, you could compare the insurance one policy to the other, find out which one best suited your family, and then you could get, based on income, tax credits to be able to afford to acquire that -- that insurance policy so that essentially we would have a pathway to health care for every american citizen, for the millions and millions of american citizens who didn't have that pathway. that was the republican plan.
it came out of the american enterprise institute as the marketplace solution for health care. it wasn't a public option. it wasn't let's lower the age of medicare, it wasn't single buyer. it was the republican marketplace plan. it was already one that had been tested by a republican governor in massachusetts. it was known as romneycare. so the republican think tank plan, the republican governor-tested plan, and democrats said okay, let's go that way. we think there is better pathways, but we'll go with that because we need to be able to bring this chamber together. but my colleagues across the aisle under this vision of using the senate as a weapon against a democratic president decided that they were going to oppose it, just like frank luntz laid out in those first few months of
2009. we see that same profound partisanship in this first-ever theft of a supreme court seat. we see that same profound partisanship in the strategy behind that theft, which is to pack the court. we see that same profound strategy in the first -- the action that happened a couple hours ago that was the first time in u.s. history that a motion to close debate was filed on the first day of a senate debate. so turn the clock back to those first 13 states and 26 senators. they were trying to figure out how the senate would operate. they weren't really planning on being a public forum, but they did have this sense that it would be wrong to close debate
before every senator had shared from their experience, and so we had a rule -- in their initial rules of the senate, they had a rule to close debate, and they never used it. they never used it. as far as we know, not once, because they wanted to give everyone the chance to be heard. of course, the senate was only a quarter of the size, 26 senators instead of 100 senators. when they rewrote the rules of the senate, they said we don't need to have a rule for closing debate by simple majority called to question, if you will, and we don't have to have it because we're going to hear everybody out before we vote. well, so that kind of launched that tradition of hearing each other out, and later when the senate restored a rule in which a supermajority could close debate, it took a supermajority.
and at another point, the senate said, you know, we need to have a little smaller of a supermajority. the reason that -- what triggered going back to having a strategy for closing debate was in world war i, -- and i know that historians will correct me if i have this wrong, but in world war i, the president wanted to put military defenses onto some of the commercial ships to fend off the threat from the germans, and there were senators who said this will draw us into the war. we're not in the war yet. this will draw us into the war by weaponizing our commercial ships. and they proceeded, there was a date set for the senate to adjourn. they proceeded to keep talking until that time arrived so that the senate could not act to pass that law that the vast majority of the senate thought was
appropriate. and so they said well, we can't have just a small group that basically being the tail that wags the dog, that denies the ability of us to make decisions, so we'll have to have a strategy for closing debate, and so they established that strategy. but the general principle behind it was most of the time you hear people out here in the senate rather than closing debate, but what we saw tonight, first time in u.s. history, cloture petition filed on the very first day. james madison, speaking to the constitutional convention, remarked that the senate was a necessary fence, he called it, to protect the people from the transient professions into which they themselves might be led. it was the reason for the longer terms for the senate, and you have two years in the house, you
have six years in the senate. the senate rotates, so a third are elected every two years for those six-year terms. there is a saying attributed to president washington that as far as we know, he never said but still it was clever enough that it's reverberated on down through the centuries, saying that the -- the senate would be the cooling saucer so that if you had your tea, it was too hot, you poured it into the cooling saucer until it's just right. you don't act impulsively because you have these six-year longer terms and you have a smaller body that can pond earp the issues more carefully. so there is the senate intended to be the cooling saucer, but what do we have right now? we have the stove turned up to
the highest possible temperature. there is no stepping back from this course of undermining the integrity of the senate and the integrity of the court. it's full steam ahead. it's file the petition on the first day of debate so we can close this debate and have this vote done by friday, the majority leader has said. vote on thursday, somehow we're going to maybe change the rules and vote on friday if there are not enough votes to close debate. back in 2013, there was an enormous blockade using the advice and consent power to obstruct both executive branch nominees and judicial nominees. this enormous blockade, my colleagues across the aisle were using it as a weapon against the judiciary and executive branch. now, when -- when the
conversation occurred back among the founders, they said advice and consent power won't have to be used very often to turn down a presidential nominee because just the very fact that the senate can serve as a check on a presidential nomination will cause the president to make wise appointments. they had actually wrestled with how to construct this situation. how do you construct this check and balance? so some had said, you know, in the executive branch, why don't we have the president head it but have the positions filled by congress? and others said, you know, that's not such a good idea because one senator's friend will be nominated for this position in exchange for another senator's friend nominated for that position, and the people
will never really know who's where, why. there's no accountability. that's what it came down to. it said so we will have a single person, the president, nominate for the executive branch. and plus, that way the president can nominate people to help fulfill the vision that the president campaigned on, which makes a lot of sense. the people didn't just elect a name. they elected a vision for the country, and the person responsible for helping to implement that, the executive branch, the president should have a team that can go forward with that -- with that vision. so then the crafters of the constitution said but what if the president goes off track and starts nominating people who don't actually have the skills to fill the positions to which they are nominated or what if the president anonymous people
because they have done some favor for the president in the past so that there is a conflict of interest, or what if the president anonymous someone of poor character? shouldn't there be a way to put a check on a deeply misguided nomination? and the founders said yes, we will create an advice and consent power for the u.s. senate to be a check on misguided nominations. so here we are, looking at that original philosophy of the senate, and the responsibility to stop misguided nominations through advice and consent, and we have two profound betrayals of that responsibility last year and this year. the betrayal last year was the
senate refused to exercise its responsibility at all. it stole the seat. it sought to pack the court. and now we have a deeply misguided nomination before us, an individual who was from the extraordinary right, not from the mainstream who was twisted the law time and time again to find for the powerful and the privileged over we the people, and yet that nomination is here on the floor. not a single vote in the judiciary committee from across the aisle. this reflects, this chart reflects the distribution of federal judge ideology. if we had been putting up this chart decades ago, you would have probably seen a single bell curve. there would be folks on the right, folks on the left, but now we have the twin peaks chart
of judicial decisionmaking, and so the decisions are falling more and more into a we the people camp that says let's fulfill the vision of our constitution and a we the powerful camp that says let's turn the constitution upside down and run this country by and for the powerful, and where does this nominee fall? not into the we the people vision of our constitution but not even within the left side of that -- of that we the powerful twin peak, but to the right side of it. that's where we're at. the supermajority to close debate commonly referred to as the filibuster is a power that
we have sustained in order to have nominees who are not from the ideological extremes. but now we have one. we have one. when a trucker was protected by the law because of his personal safety and he was freezing in sub zero temperature and had to go get warm and come back and the law protected him from getting fired and he got fired and the court said absolutely, you can't fire someone for protecting their safety or others, and judge gorsuch found a way to turn that on its head. or when we wrote a law to say you would have to provide an education to disabled children, judge gorsuch said babysitting is fine. as long as -- as long as there is basically, not the exact words, kind of mere fringe of advancement, something that was
essentially equivalent to babysitting. and the supreme court, all eight justices, justices occupying both of those peaks, all said that is absurd and they overturned judge gorsuch 8-0. so we have this rule of our founders being the cooling saucer. we have this rule of being the check on the abuse or misguided presidential nominations, and we failed it last year by not doing our job, and we pail it this year by -- and we fail it this year by considering anyone other than merrick garland and we certainly fail it in the context of closing -- considering the possibility of closing game that's the conversation -- the possibility of closing debate.
that's the conversation that the senate is engaged in is this judge is so extreme to get the 60 votes to close debate, we'll change the rules. well, how about we change the nominee? how about we save the integrity of the senate? how about we save the integrity of the supreme court? change the nominee. ideally, put merrick garland up because that way we solve the problem of the stolen set a, this enormous court-packing plan that is unfolding right before our eyes. and if the schedule on which the majority leader has said he wants to complete this court packing occurs by friday, it will be too late. we will have done the damage. george washington shared the view of the senate's role, the story goes, that thomas jefferson returned from france to take on his duties as our
first secretary of state, and he was having breakfast with president washington and called for the count -- he called the president to account for having supported an unnecessary legislative chamber of the senate. they're having this conversation. that's when that conversation came up and we believe it to be apocryphal but still the response, as written down at some later point in time, was washington asked of jefferson, why did you just now pour that coffee into your saucer before drinking it? jefferson responded, to cool t my throat is not made of brass. even so, said washington, we pour our legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it. is there a way that we can avoid what is unfolding now, this tragic miscarriage of the senate's responsibilities?
whether that conversation took place, as i mentioned, is not actually known, but the fact of the story is still -- but the fact that the story is still here means that it had some power behind it, whether it took place or not. and that was that for 200 years and counting, the government has counted on the senate to pause, to not give acceleration to the momentum of the day, to pause and be thoughtful in considering the integrity of our institutions. and that integrity, that moment when we need to be the cooling saucer is now. unanimous consent has been a tool of the senate -- unanimous
consent has been a tool that the senate has used. and many times if you're watching the senate, you'll hear unanimous consent to do this, to do that. earlier the majority leader came down and he spoke and said, i ask unanimous consent and he laid out a plan for tomorrow about how this debate would proceed. and that unanimous consent, each and every one of those represents a form of cooperation that's kind of often the last vestige of cooperation. but the point is it also goes to this observation that the senate is about hearing each other and working together. robert c. byrd once remarked, that's what the senate is b it's the last bastion of minority rights, where a minority can be heard, where a minority can stand on its feet. one individual, if necessary, and speak until he falls. well, you can't keep speaking if a cloture petition has been filed, so come thursday, when
the phrase is the petition ripens, which means that it will be voted on, and generally it is one hour after we convene, after an intervening day. so tomorrow, wednesday, is the intervening day, and then the vote would occur on thursday. that is the opposite of what senator byrd was referring to, because at that point anybody who wants to be heard can't be heard. the tradition of being weeks and weeks of conversation about a nomination that creates complexities or has complexities behind it, that is being destroyed. so that comity permeated many controversial debates of the senate -- that the senate has had over time. that willingness to hear each other and to vote is something
that was embedded in the senate as i saw it four decadessin deco and -- four decades ago and later in my life when i was working for congress. there's no denying that supreme court nominations have always been subject to a certain level of politics, but there's also been a certain level of cordiality to the process. and daniel patrick moynihan, in a debate on the nomination of ruth bader ginsburg, back in 1993, he said, the senate is perhaps most acutely attentive to its duty when it considers a nominee to the supreme court. that this is so reflects not only the importance of our nation's highest tribunal but also our recognition that while members of the congress and presidents come and go, the tenure of supreme court justices
can span generations. we are not here on the floor debating who will serve in some office in the executive branch for the next couple years. we are here debating a nomination to the highest court that could span generations, in the words of daniel patrick moynihan. so where else would we consider more important than a supreme court nomination to adhere to the traditions of the senate and to honor the 60-vote requirement in our rules? we don't always like the nominee the other side has selected, and we question them vigorously in confirmation hearings, and we end up voting against them. but until the situation last
year with the death of antonin scalia, every vacancy in an election year for which a president proposed a justice -- that is, made a nomination -- every time the senate did its job. it confirmed most, it rejected a few, but it did its job. over the course of our nation's history, there have been a total of 164 supreme court nominatio nominations. 124 of those were confirmed. roughly three out of four. including elevating current justices to chief justice. there have been 112 individuals who have served on the supreme court and 39 presidents to date have appointed at least one supreme court justice.
but only once -- last year -- has the majority conspired to reject its responsibility to consider a nominee for a position that opened in an election year. only once has the majority conspired to steal an election-year senate seat and send it to the next president and pack the court. the action last year is different from anything that has occurred before. there were some individuals, some colleagues across the aisle, who advocated for the senate fulfilling its constitutional duty in the case of merrick garland and for continuing the traditions of this great institution. one of my colleagues told a town
hall audience last year, one of my republican colleagues said, and i quote, i can't imagine the president has or will will not somebody that meets my criteria, but i have a job to do, and i think the process ought to go forward. another colleague set down and met with judge garland, even knowing that the republican leadership would say that he would not get a hearing, and that colleague declared, and i quote, that the colleague was more convinced than ever that the process should proceed, and that the next step should be public hearings before the judiciary committee. and so i pause to thank my republican colleagues who worked to stand up for the integrity of
the court and the integrity of the senate and for due deliberation on a presidential nomination during an election year. thank you to my colleague from kansas, thank you to my colleague from maine. there may have been others that i didn't hear about, but i imagine there were, because i think members of this body take their responsibility extremely seriously. they take their oath of office seriously. and they were put in an impossible position when their leadership asked them to not exercise their advice and consent responsibility under the constitution. so that's where we were last year, and here we are on the brink of doing this devastating damage to the court. shouldn't we pause and be the
cooling saucer? shouldn't we understand is this nomination -- shouldn't we send this nomination back to the president and ask for him to put merrick garland forward or someone who basically is on the same path that merrick garland was on, the path that was so honored and complimented by senators on both sides of the aisle? shouldn't we address this before we set the precedent of a stolen seat? now, think about what this precedent means going forward. a few years from now there may well be another vacancy, and this vacancy may be under a republican president, and maybe the democrats control this chamber, and at that point do they say, we are going to rectify the wrong of the past and restore the integrity of the court by taking that seat and forwarding to the next president, hoping that it will be a democratic president and there will be a nominee who will
restore the integrity of the court because it will be a nominee more like merrick garland? or there will be future leadership that says, hey, their team stole a seat that occurred -- opening that occurred in january of an election year. let's steal one that happens in october the year before the election to balance it out. we can steal it for 12 months. why not steal it for a few more? where does that end? what good does that do to our institution? what honor does that give to the 5-4 decisions of the future? that is where we are headed. we are headed to a place that is breaking two centuries' worth of tradition and establishing a precedent that will do enormous damage to the senate and to the
presidency and to the court. and that's why i'm here addressing it at length tonight. i did find that when the majority leader didn't want to put into a resolution that the same rule he advocated for last year should apply to this president, we -- it was clear, as clear as you could possibly make it that what happened last year had no principle. it was an issue of partisan tactics to amplify the strength of one party and one vision, that of government by and for the powerful at the expense of the other vision. don't we owe more in our role as senators, especially on something as important as the supreme court and the integrity of the court than just another partisan strategy?
i'll tell you the -- i think about why is it that we're at this place right now? and there's a couple things that are very, very different from the senate i first saw four years ago, and the america of four decades ago, and one of those is that senators four decades ago lived here with their families. they had a monday-friday workweek, they had evenings to build relationships, and they had weekends to do things with other colleagues across the aisle. they took a lot of bipartisan congressional delegations. they all knew each other well as friends. but now the senate comes in on monday night for a vote at 5:30 p.m., and we leave after a vote at roughly 3:30 p.m. on
thursday. so it's three days, monday afternoon to thursday afternoon. we don't have the time in the evenings because of that compressed schedule, we don't have the time on the weekends because we're back in our home states or traveling somewhere else, and so we don't have the relationships. you just don't have the common activities. there used to be lunches where the democrats and republicans ate together, and now there is a partisan republican lunch, three out of three lunches and two out of three for the democrats. we don't -- we don't have that meal together to get to know each other. and so you have to work extraordinarily hard just to set up a meeting and try to work with a colleague on a topic, and if it's something larger than you can discuss here during the middle of a vote, it can take a month to get a 20-minute meeting to ponder with a colleague where we -- how we might work together on a problem. so that's a change in this
chamber, but there is another big change, and that second big change is related to the role of media. we have big issues in our country decades ago, but we also had community newspapers and we had three network television stations that essentially provided a foundation of information. we might have different views about that information, different views about what we should do in the future, but we had a common foundation of information. and now we don't have a common foundation of information. information flows in every possible direction, much of it made up. i was very struck when i -- i hold a lot of town halls. and so my first summer as a senator, 2009, i'm out holding town halls and i do one in every county, every year, and folks
said now, why are you supporting this senate health care bill that has a death panel in it? and that was one of those false news stories. and what was the real story? the real story is that a republican senator from georgia had proposed, a republican senator had proposed that we pay doctors for the time they spend with their patients informing them about how to do a living will so that if they were incapacitated in the future, their desires would be followed, not someone else's desires, not a death panel, their desires would be followed. that's as american as apple pie. we would then make sure that we could control, each of us, our
own future, a republican proposal, a good proposal, a proposal that made a lot of sense so that people could have control over their future medical decisions if they were incapacitated. but for partisan political reasons, a candidate had twisted that into a death panel and turned it on its head that someone else would make the decisions instead of you making the decisions for yourself, which is what it was all about. so i'm at this town hall and a constituent, an oregon citizen, raised this issue, and i said you will be happy to know that they don't exist and you will be happy to know that the idea from which the conversation, the false news story began was about empowering you to make your own decisions. don't you feel better now knowing that the conversation in the senate was about you controlling your own destiny? and this woman said to me i
don't believe you, and i said well, you don't have to believe me. i have the text right here that was proposed, because i had heard about this issue, and so i wanted to make sure people knew about it. i shared the text with her. and she said, well, i don't believe you. she said who am i going to believe? a u.s. senator or a television policy analyst? by which she meant glenn beck. glenn beck and others were simply making stuff up and putting it on their television show or their radio show, designed to infuriate people by setting up this false story, this false story that there was a government takeover, this false story that there was a death panel. if you want to understand what
happened two weeks ago in the house, when the house failed to pass a health care bill to replace obamacare, it is a story about false news. it is a story about partisanship over policy. it is a story about a year-plus of bipartisanship being trumped by frank luntz' vision of whatever is proposed, calling it a government takeover, even if -- his memo didn't say this, but as it turned out even if it was the republican strategy of having a markup for people to get their health insurance. call it a government takeover. so when the republicans said they were going to replace obamacare, the problem was obamacare was the republican plan, so they didn't have anywhere to go. they could either tear down health care completely and put
24 million people on the ice, that is out of reach of health care. and by the way, not just individuals but rural health care institutions because the rural clinics were powerfully strengthened through the affordable care act. the rural hospitals were powerfully strengthened through -- through the affordable care act, because there was so much uncompensated care previously, the hospitals and clinics had to give it away for free. now they were getting paid because people had insurance so they were much stronger. so it was about 24 million people but it was also about a vast health care structure in rural america that the republican plan would destroy. but they couldn't propose their own plan because their own plan had been adopted in 2009. marketplaces, with private companies competing against each other, with tax subsidies, tax credits so people could afford to buy those policies.
that was the american enterprise institute plan. that was the republican governor's plan, that was romneycare. and so where do you go? if your plan has already been enacted into law, if 150 of your amendments were accepted as part of that process, where do you go when you have used a false story, a false commentary to the american people year after year after year after year, saying that something is some terrible thing that it is not? well, where you go is the process blew up. that's where it went because it was based on a false foundation, the entire eight years of attack on -- on the affordable care act. a false premise just like sara palin's death panels were a false attack.
we can't keep going through this extreme partisanship and save the senate at the same time. now, another challenge we have, in addition to the fact that the friendships that cemented the senate together are not as developed as they were decades ago because we are here and we don't spend enough time with each other, and another problem being that you have all these false stories being generated continuously to make people angry with each other. those are -- those are certainly problems, but we have another big problem, and that problem is the concentration of campaign money, the dark money, the citizens united money that is corrupting our political system. i can't convey how much damage
this has done, but let's just review kind of the biggest example of this strategy. the koch brothers decided in 2013 that they wanted to have a legislature that would support their extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and there was this pesky little problem threatening the entire planet called global warming in which the burning of those fossil fuels was polluting the air, raising the temperature of the earth and having profound consequences, and so people were talking about how do we transition off of fossil fuels. and the koch brothers said well, that's our business. we can't let that happen. we have got to have control of the house and the senate. so the story with the senate is they decided to spend this vast
sum of money on the campaigns of 2014, and the result was that they influenced the elections and had a positive outcome from their point of view, in louisiana and in arkansas and in north carolina and in iowa and colorado and alaska. there were a few other states that they came to that year, including oregon, my home state. so they won most of those campaigns, and they put the republican majority into office so they would have a senate that would not be discussing the biggest threat to our planet, carbon pollution and global warming and instead would have one that would sustain tax breaks to accelerate the extraction and burning, the profitability of extracting and
burning fossil fuels. and then they did something that should be recorded as a significant moment in u.s. history. in january, as the senate was coming in with this new republican majority, they -- they didn't say well, that's great. we have got a republican majority, and now that we have folks that will support our fossil fuel extraction and come bugs, we'll make a lot of money. they will keep the tax breaks in place for us. no, they didn't say that. they said pay attention. we -- this is january, 2015, two months after the election as we're just coming in. the republican majority is just coming in. the koch brothers said pay attention. we are committing to spend the better part of a billion dollars in the next election two years from now. i don't know that such a statement has ever been made by
a body in the united states, a statement similar. next election. we just had this election. next election we're going to spend almost a billion dollars. they wanted everyone in this new republican majority senate to know who was in charge. the koch brothers are in charge. they paid for the third-party ads that put your election in the victory column. you will pay attention at your own risk if you don't. and a number of my colleagues shared that this was a very real threat. the koch brothers would be happy to find a primary opponent, not just undermine them in a general election or fail to fund them in a general election. and the first bill up was one of the koch brothers' top priorities. the keystone pipeline.
so we now have a body that at least you can say a very significant behind the scenes force of what this body does is the koch brothers. well, how does this tie into what happened in 2016 when antonin scalia died and there was an open senate seat? here is how it ties in. you had a 5-4 supreme court that had decided that it was okay for groups like the koch brothers to spend billions of dollars in dark money third-party campaigns eviscerating the opponents on the other side of the issue.nows
said no, and are we the people republic, having that concentration of power is a corrupting force. it is an attack on the very design of our country, but you had five others who said no, no, no, no, it's okay. you know, it makes me think about a letter that jefferson wrote. jefferson was writing to a friend, and he said there is a mother principle, a mother principle in our design of the government. he said that is that decisions will only be made in the interest of the people if each person carries an equal voice. now he recognized, in using the term "voice" something broader
and more powerful than just a vote. and that's why he said voice. what happened with citizens united perspective of the five judges was that it's okay to have some individuals who have a voice in our campaign that is equal to thousands or tens of thousands or even 100,000 other citizens. now, we didn't have such a way to amplify one's voice, not anything close to that amplification when the founders designed our government. yes, you could put an article in the newspaper. yes, you could hand out pamphlets. but with the growth of radio and television and now the internet and all the strategies through social media and internet advertising, through all of that, money can amplify one's
voice. you can have the equivalent of a stadium sound system that drowns out the voice of the people. that is the opposite of jefferson's mother principle. jefferson's principle that we will only be a government that pursues the will of the people if each citizen has an equal voice. granted, we all know that that vision was flawed. women weren't given a vote. many minorities were excluded. but we worked over time towards that vision of inclusion and opportunity and equality, and we've come a long ways. but in one case we've gone the opposite direction, and that is the citizens united concentration of money corrupting our elections, undermining the legitimacy of
this chamber, undermining the legitimacy of the house chamber because instead of being elected to do government of, by, and for the people, product of an enormous concentration of power by and for the few. you can see it in the policies that are pursued. three decades after world war ii, we had an economy that worked really well for working america. american workers participated in the wealth that they were creating. and the result was families had a leap forward. my parents had lived under humble circumstances. i had a grandmother who at one point had lived in a railroad car. i had a grandfather who put all the children into a car and drove from kansas to arizona with all their individuals in
the family and their possessions in a single car going west trying to find work and find a future. there were incredibly hard times. folks who were living in shacks. and then after world war 2, we had these three decades where we had this big leap forward in the standard of living as workers shared in the wealth they were creating. but about the time that i got out of high school, which is 1974, the middle of that decadet 1975 -- the next four decades virtually all the new income in america has gone to the top 10%, which means nine out of ten americans have been left behind in this economy. i live in a blue-collar community. the same community i've lived in since third grade. was there in third grade through graduating from high school,
moved back in the community the year my son was born, jonathan, 20 years ago. and it's a blue-collar community. it's changed over time. it's become much more of a diverse community, much -- many ethnicities from all over the world. a lot of languages spoken in the school. it's a blue-collar working community. and folks there say, you know, my parents were able to buy a house in this community, but the only way i'm going to own a house in this community is to be able to inherit it from my parents. because of the disappearance of living wage jobs. that's what's been going on in this economy. and we provide these enormous, enormous tax breaks for the best off in our society. there is a concept referred to as the buffett rule.
warren buffett said why should i, a billionaire, be taxed at a lower rate than my secretary? why does my secretary pay a higher rate than i do? and so every now and then we've had on the floor of the senate an effort to correct that and say, hey, a billionaire should pay at least the same tax rate as the secretary or the janitor. but we haven't corrected it because of the vast influence of funds in this chamber working on behalf of the privileged and the powerful. so here we are trying to figure out why last year we had for the very first time a majority leader who engineered the theft of a supreme court seat from the obama administration to another administration, first time in
u.s. history it's done. and to understand that, you have to understand -- to understand 2016, you have to understand 2014 when the koch brothers invested this vast sum in all this campaign so they could control the senate. you have to understand it in january 2015 the koch brothers sent a message that you better pay attention. and you have to understand that the koch brothers' strategy is based on the dark money, third-party campaigns that merrick garland might possibly have voted against. a 5-4 united citizens decision that merrick garland might have found 5 - 4 the other direction. we don't know where he stood on this. he was so square down the middle, so complimented by people on the right as well as the left, we don't know how he would have voted on that. but in order to ensure that that
dark money -- that in order to ensure that decisions would be made by and for the powerful, to ensure that the fossil fuel companies could be swept clear of regulations that would diminish them out of fossil fuels they could extract out of the ground and sell for combustion, in order to ensure the profits of the koch brothers, that drove this unique case of the theft of the supreme court seat last year. and that effort to pack the court by sending that seat to the next president in hopes that it would be a conservative president and then to have that nominee say i will only nominate somebody who comes off the list from two conservative groups on the far right, boy, that was exactly the vision. it has unfolded exactly as i
guess you could say those in that powerful group wanted it to unfold. but we have a different responsibility. we don't have a responsibility to we the powerful vision. we don't have a responsibility to a we the privileged vision. we have a we the people constitution. we have jefferson's mother principle that says we should be in the situation if we want the will of the people to be enacted in which people have an equal voice. and that means that this third party dark money that is corrupting america, our fundamental institutions, our election institutions, corrupting this institution, both sides, house and senate, that is why i hope there is a supreme court that eventually says this is wrong, this is out of sync with the vision, our constitutional vision.
the court said we think transparency will do the job. they kind of assumed there would be transparency in where the money came from and where it went. it used to be that colleagues on the right side of the table would say we love transparency. transparency will be the sunlight that disinfects the potential corruption of campaign donations. we love transparency. many of those who opposed the mccain-feingold caps on donations said we love transparency, the sunlight, the disinfectant, won't that be wonderful. and then when we had a transparency bill on the floor and said people have to know where every donation comes from so there is not this dark unidentified money surging through the campaigns of the american campaign system, surging through the arteries. suddenly it is like, wait, we don't like transparency so much because, that might hurt the prospects for the powerful folks
who got us elected. and so that then you have the picture of why this unique circumstance occurred and why we are where we are and how much damage it's going to do and how it undermines the legitimacy of the court. merrick garland's treatment is unprecedented in the history of supreme court nominations. there was a hastily fabricated pretext that we shouldn't do a normal process under our advice and consent responsibilities in the final year of a presidency or the fourth year of a presidency. now the constitution, you can read it from one end to another, you can't find that principle in the constitution, that suddenly we can ignore our
responsibility in the fourth year of a presidency. the responsibility to be here in the senate chamber doesn't end in the fourth year. no other responsibility ends. the responsibility of the president to nominate for empty positions doesn't end. but that pretext is one in which it was so quickly concocted that the foundation -- so quickly destroyed, it was just revealed for the destructive partisan tactic that it was, this court-packing tactic. one colleague said we have 80 years of precedent of not confirming supreme court justice in an election year. that's an exact quote. one colleague came to the floor here, a colleague, by the way, who ran for president came
to the floor and said we have 80 years of precedent not confirming a supreme court justice in an election year. wrong. 15 vacancies, 15 vacancies in election year, 15 times the senate acted. and in most of those cases it was to confirm the justice. we could even look at the fact that there were some vacancies that occurred before an election year and we confirmed in an election year. this body confirmed the nomination of justice anthony kennedy who sits on the supreme court today, in 1988. and to my colleague who said we have 80 years of precedent of not confirming supreme court justice in an election year -- that's an exact quote -- not only is that not true if you look at history of the he was was -- every nomination that confirmed in an election year d
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