I rose today on the Senate floor to oppose the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States. After meeting with Judge Gorsuch, hearing his testimony to my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, and carefully reviewing his record, I have concluded that I cannot support giving a man with his views a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is the most important judicial body in the country. The decisions it reaches, even on 5–4 votes, have a profound impact on all Americans, on our environment, and on our way of life. As we decide our vote this week on Judge Gorsuch, it is important to understand how this vote will impact the American people.
Let me give you just a few examples.
Unlimited Money in Politics
Seven years ago, in a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in a case called Citizens United that billionaires and corporations could spend unlimited sums of money in the political process. This decision opened the floodgates of corporate money, such that the wealthiest people in our country can now elect candidates who represent their interests and not the needs of ordinary Americans. This decision is undermining American democracy, and is moving us to an oligarchic form of society where billionaires not only control our economy but our political life as well.
Citizens United must be overturned and we must move back to a nation where our political system is based on one person, one vote.
Based on my conversation with Judge Gorsuch and a review of his record, do I believe that he will vote to overturn Citizens United? Absolutely not. Further, I suspect that he will vote to undermine our democracy even further by supporting the elimination of all restrictions on campaign finance — allowing billionaires to directly contribute unlimited sums to candidates, rather than make independent expenditures. I will not vote for a Supreme Court justice who I believe will help move this country in a more undemocratic way.
Secondly, in 2013, again by a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act — a law which was passed to combat racial discrimination in voting in a number of states. As a result of that decision, Republican governors and legislatures all over this country, under the guise of fighting “voter fraud,” passed laws intentionally designed to make it harder for people of color, poor people, young people, old people to vote in elections.
In America, in the year 2017, it is not too much to ask that all of our people who are eligible to vote be able to vote without harassment, without roadblocks, without barriers being placed in front of them. It’s called democracy. At a time when we have one of the lowest voter turnout rates of any major country on earth, we should be making it easier for people to participate in the electoral process, not harder.
There is nothing that I have seen in Judge Gorsuch’s record or recent statements to make me believe that he is prepared to overturn this disastrous decision on the Voting Rights Act.
In 1973, the Court decided Roe v. Wade and declared that women have a constitutional right to control their own bodies. That decision has been subsequently affirmed by multiple cases, as recently as last June. In his confirmation hearings, Judge Gorsuch refused to state if he believed Roe v Wade was good law and should be upheld. Based on his statements and general philosophy, I believe there is a strong likelihood that Judge Gorsuch would vote to overturn Roe v Wade, and deny the women of this country the constitutional right to control their own bodies. This would be an outrage and must not be allowed to happen.
Prioritizing Corporate Interests
In addition, under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court has time and time again voted in support of corporate interests, and against the needs of the working people of this country. After reviewing Judge Gorsuch’s record, I believe he will continue that trend.
In a case called TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board, Judge Gorsuch argued that a trucker was properly fired by his employer for abandoning his cargo at the side of the road after his truck broke down and he nearly froze to death waiting for help. He literally believed that this man should have had to choose between his life and his job, and by choosing his life, deserved to lose his job. In another case, he ruled that a university was correct to fire a professor battling cancer, rather than grant her request to extend her sick leave.
I find these decisions troubling. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when working people feel often feel powerless at the hands of the wealthy and the powerful, we need a Supreme Court justice who will protect worker’s rights and not just worry about corporate profits. I fear Judge Gorsuch is not that person.