This Thursday, I’ll Be Speaking Directly to You.
Last week, President Obama fulfilled his constitutional responsibility and presented the American people with an eminently qualified nominee for our Nation’s highest court.
Chief Judge Merrick Garland. More federal judicial experience than any other nominee in history. And by the way, someone who multiple Republican senators have repeatedly recommended as the best person for this particular job.
This Thursday, I’m going to be speaking directly to you from Georgetown University about why it is so vitally important that Chief Judge Garland’s nomination receives the consideration our Constitution affords. I hope you’ll watch.
Over the course of my career, I have been an active participant in the three equal branches of the government and the Constitution — and how they work together.
And right now, by denying a fair hearing to Chief Judge Garland, Senate Republicans are failing to fulfill their Constitutional obligation.
In my 36 years in the United States Senate, the Constitution was always our guidepost. Which meant that every single Supreme Court nominee got a hearing, a committee vote, and a floor vote. Period.
While serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I presided over or helped preside over nine nominees to the Supreme Court. Both Democrats and Republicans. That’s more than anyone else alive today. Each time, we adhered to the process outlined in the Constitution. It’s the President’s duty to nominate. It’s the Senate’s constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent. And that’s just what I did.
Even in instances when I opposed the nominee. Even in instances when the nominee’s initial vote in the Judiciary Committee failed.
The Constitution states it plainly and clearly: All 100 senators have a duty to provide advice and consent on nominees, and help determine who sits on our nation’s highest court. Not merely the 20 individuals who sit on the Judiciary Committee. Understand: This stance often earned me the anger of my own party. But it was the right thing to do.
The full United States Senate must be able to work its will.
And by the way, there is nothing in the Constitution or our history to support the view that no nominee should be voted on in the last year of a presidency.
In fact, we’ve done it before. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was confirmed in the last year of President Ronald Reagan’s second term. I remember. I was there — I oversaw his nomination. I summed up my stance in a 1992 speech from the floor of the Senate (by the way, 10 minutes after a certain two-minute clip that’s gotten quite a bit of air time lately):
“Therefore, I stand by my position, Mr. President. If the President consults and cooperates with the Senate or moderates his selections absent consultation, then his nominees may enjoy my support as did Justices Kennedy and Souter. But if he does not, as is the President’s right, then I will oppose his future nominees as is my right.”
That remains my position today.
This Thursday, I’d like to speak directly to the Americans around the country. Because an eight-person Supreme Court, with judges divided four-four along ideological lines, has real-life consequences for the American people. It’s dangerous. And every single American needs to know what it would mean.
To speak squarely to my colleagues in the Senate:
Take a look at the argument you’re making here. Consider, truly, whether it’s good for the American people and the country. Whether it does right by the Constitution. Whether it respects this sacred institution.
Because the track you’re on is a loss for the American people — the people who elected you to act in their best interests — no matter how you look at it.
Do the right thing.