VIDEO RELEASE: Carper Delivers Speech Forcefully Opposing the Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Specifically, Senator Carper highlighted Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record as a stark contrast to the views of most Americans on many important issues, including protections for those with pre-existing conditions, the freedom for women to make their own health care decisions and an independent check on executive power. Senator Carper highlighted the fact that the greatest threat Brett Kavanaugh may pose to this country and its people is with respect to our environment based on his 12-year record on the bench.
Senator Carper also noted Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford’s powerful testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and criticized Judge Kavanaugh’s lack of judicial temperament and truthfulness. He closed by urging his colleagues to remember that history will remember the votes they cast on the Kavanaugh nomination.
“To my colleagues still wavering on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, I will leave you with this: we will not only be judged by voters this November; we will be judged by history,” said Senator Carper. “Let’s show that we are still worthy of being called the world’s greatest deliberative body. Let’s show that we have made progress since 1991. Let’s show that we are willing to take a stand and do the right thing. Because if we are not, any short-term political wins will be forever eclipsed by the permanent stain left on our legacies and this body from which, I fear, there may be no recovering.”
Video of Senator Carper’s full remarks are available here.
The text of Senator Carper’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available below:
“Mr. President, I rise to speak about the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. The stakes are always high when this chamber vets, debates and votes to confirm any President’s Supreme Court nominee – as they should be. This is the highest court in our land. The job comes with a lifetime appointment. And those who serve on the Court make decisions that affect the lives of millions of Americans. That’s precisely why we expect presidents to look for the best and the brightest candidates. It’s why the vetting process in the Senate should be serious and thoughtful. And, it’s why nominees should strive to be above reproach.
“This absolutely should be one of the toughest job interview around because the stakes surrounding any Supreme Court seat are that high. The stakes surrounding the seat vacated by Justice Kennedy may be even higher. The next Justice may shift the balance of our nation’s highest court for a generation – perhaps even longer. The next Justice may very well be asked to rule on questions of executive power that test our democracy. And we are fooling ourselves if we refuse to acknowledge that the stakes are so high, in large part, because this chamber has yet to reckon with the grave injustice that was done to Merrick Garland and to our Constitution in 2016.
“As many will recall, Judge Garland, who serves as the Chief Judge on the DC Circuit Court – the highest federal appeals court in the land – was nominated by President Obama over two years ago to fill the late Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. Shamefully, he was denied any kind of consideration by this body. He waited 293 days for a hearing and a vote that never came. Most Republican senators refused to even meet with him. A good man was treated badly. And so was our Constitution.
“The unprecedented obstruction our Republican colleagues mounted against Judge Garland was a shameful chapter for the United States Senate. I am still deeply troubled by those 293 days, and it’s likely that I will continued to be troubled by them for the rest of my life. We may never agree which side pulled the pin out of the grenade, but we must all recognize that this institution will never be the same if stealing Supreme Court seats and creating one set of rules for Democratic Presidents and another set of rules for Republican Presidents is the new norm.
“Mr. President, despite the injustice done to Merrick Garland, Justice Gorsuch was ultimately confirmed last year – on a bipartisan basis, I might add.
When Justice Kennedy retired earlier this year, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill his seat. More than twelve years ago, I met with Judge Kavanaugh in my office when the Senate considered his nomination to the DC Circuit. Back in 2006, I voted my hopes over my fears. Unfortunately, over the last decade, many of my worst fears have come true. I believe that Judge Kavanaugh’s extreme record on the bench that has unfolded over the past dozen years stands in stark contrast to the views of most Americans on many important issues.
“For example, Americans overwhelmingly support protections for those living with pre-existing conditions. Brett Kavanaugh ruled against upholding the Affordable Care Act in 2011. It is widely expected that he would side with conservative Justices if and when cases like Texas v. United States come before the Court. If he does, the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions would be invalidated for tens of millions of Americans.
“And, speaking of health care, Americans overwhelmingly support women having the freedom to make their own health care decisions. Brett Kavanaugh, while working in the Bush White House in 2003, wrote an internal memo stating that Roe v. Wade may not be considered ‘settled law of the land’ because the Supreme Court ‘can always overrule its precedent.’
“Americans also overwhelmingly support independent checks on executive power. We believe that no one in America is above the law. Yet, Brett Kavanaugh, in a July 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, wrote that Congress should pass a law to exempt a sitting president from criminal prosecution or investigation. When I learned of this, my reaction was, ‘You’ve got to be kidding!’ Apparently, he wasn’t, though. Ironically, that declaration came just 11 years after Brett Kavanaugh played a key role in drafting the Starr Report which laid out grounds for impeaching then-President Bill Clinton.
“But, the greatest threat that Brett Kavanaugh may pose is to this country and its people is with respect to our environment. In all my years, I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t want to ensure that their family has clear air to breathe and safe water to drink. A review of Judge Kavanaugh’s nearly 300 opinions over the last 12 years – both concurrences and dissents – shows that Judge Kavanaugh has voted to weaken or block environmental protections a staggering 89 percent of the time. In fact, Judge Kavanaugh has never dissented in a case that would weaken environmental protections, and admitted as much in responses to Questions for the Record from Senators Feinstein and Harris. In other words, almost nine out of 10 times, he has sided with those who weaken environmental protections over those that would strengthen them.
“I fear that, if confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh could well turn out to be the next Scott Pruitt; However, unlike former EPA Administrator Pruitt, whose tenure ended after 18 months, Brett Kavanaugh could damage to our environment for a quarter century or more on the Supreme Court. For example, just last year Pruitt’s attempt to delay rules limiting methane emissions from oil and gas drilling was challenged in the D.C. Circuit Court, where Judge Kavanaugh now serves. In that case, Judge Kavanaugh sided with Scott Pruitt and the fossil fuel industry, voting against his colleagues who found Pruitt’s delay illegal.
“Judge Kavanaugh has also attempted to severely limit EPA’s authority to regulate toxic emissions and greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. In 2012, he blocked air pollution restrictions covering nearly half of our country, thereby endangering thousands of lives.This is especially concerning to those of us who live in downwind states like Delaware, where over 90 percent of our air pollution comes from dirty emissions in western states that drifts east across our borders. Strictly based on Judge Kavanaugh’s environmental record on the bench over the past 12 years, I was prepared to vote NO on his nomination many weeks ago.
“Then, last week, the Senate – and much of our country – was riveted by compelling and powerful testimony from a private citizen and victim – Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford – who came forward to share the most traumatic experience of her life. She did so despite the serious risks it posed to both her and her family. She did so despite being terrified. She did so despite being unsure her story would make any difference at all. She did so because she said it was her civic duty to share the truth. That takes courage. Like many of my colleagues, I have been contacted by sexual assault survivors since Dr. Ford’s testimony who have been inspired to come forward and share their stories. It serves as further proof that this problem is not only underreported, but that men and women who are victims of sexual assault can – and do – bury this trauma for decades.
“Some of my Republican colleagues have acknowledged that Dr. Ford is credible. But, despite her credibility, they say they don’t see her testimony as reason enough to deny Judge Kavanaugh a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. They say they don’t have enough evidence to believe her. Instead, they have painted this as no more than a he said, she said situation. Well, let’s look at what he said then.
“Last week, Judge Kavanaugh – who currently sits on our nation’s second-highest court – came before the United States Senate and unleashed a torrent of unbelievable partisan attacks. He claimed that the allegations against him were fueled by ‘pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 elections.’ He went so far as to say that the claims were merely ‘revenge on behalf of the Clintons.’ He threatened Democratic members saying ‘what goes around comes around.’ There’s an old saying that says, ‘Adversity does not build character – it reveals it.’ Judge Kavanaugh revealed himself to be a partisan during last week’s hearing.
“After witnessing the vitriol that Judge Kavanaugh spewed, how could any left-leaning cause think they could possibly get a fair shake from him should their case come before the Supreme Court? His temperament was clearly unbecoming of a judge, let alone a Supreme Court Justice. And, what’s perhaps even more disturbing is that it seems clear that Judge Kavanaugh was willing to be so brazenly partisan in order to appeal to an audience of one watching from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony last week also raised additional concerns regarding his truthfulness. For weeks, my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, including Senator Durbin and Senator Leahy, have raised serious concerns that Judge Kavanaugh may have misled the Judiciary Committee about the extent of his role in the Bush Administration helping several controversial judicial nominees navigate the Senate confirmation process.
“Judge Kavanaugh may have also misled the Judiciary Committee about the extent of his role in the Bush Administration helping shape several controversial decisions in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, including warrantless wiretapping and the rights of enemy combatants. And during his most recent hearing about the allegations brought forward by Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh answered several questions about his younger days in ways that were, at best, misleading and, at worst, lies under oath. Judge Kavanaugh’s less than truthful answers – on matters large and small – point to a troubling pattern and raise serious questions about his credibility. Even if my Republican colleagues don’t want to believe Dr. Ford, and even if they agree with Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record, the fact that he came before this body and so brazenly misled our fellow senators should, by itself, be disqualifying.
“Mr. President, before coming to the Senate, I was privileged to serve as Governor of Delaware for eight years. In that role, I nominated dozens of men and women to serve as judges in several courts of national prominence – including Delaware’s Supreme Court, Court of Chancery, Superior Court, and Family Court. What I looked for most of all was truthfulness and judicial temperament – the way that a judge handled himself or herself in the courtroom. In fact, I denied a former Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court the ability to be approved for a second term because he lacked the appropriate judicial temperament. What we saw on display in the Judiciary Committee last week was not acceptable for a judge sitting on the Delaware Court of Common Pleas, let alone the highest court in our land.
“Now, in an effort to actually get to the truth and ensure this body could have all the facts before taking such an important and consequential vote, my Democratic colleagues and I called for the FBI to conduct a nonpartisan investigation. Unfortunately, what we ended up with falls far short of what the Senate deserves and certainly what the American people deserve. What we got was a process certainly not designed to inform.
“If this process was designed to inform, the White House and Senate Republicans would have actually allowed the FBI to speak to the more than 40 individuals whose names Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez submitted as people who could potentially corroborate their accounts. They did not. If this were a process designed to inform, the dozens of individuals who contacted the FBI to share potentially helpful accounts and information would have received calls back. They did not. If this process were designed to inform, the White and Senate Republicans would have allowed the FBI to expand the scope of its investigation. They did not. If this process were designed to inform, the Majority Leader would have at least waited to schedule a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination until after we received and read the FBI report. He did not. Sadly, this process was a sham from the start.
“Mr. President, I proudly hail from the First State. As you know, we’re called the First State because we were the First State to ratify the U.S. Constitution – the longest living, most emulated constitution in the history of the world. One of the fundamental reasons it has endured, and that the democracy it built has endured, is because of the intricate system of checks and balances crafted just up the road in Philadelphia 231 years ago. This process makes a mockery of that system of checks and balances.
“We must all recognize that, to use the Majority Leader’s words, ‘plowing through’ with Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination will diminish the credibility of the Supreme Court as an institution that stays above the political fray. In fact, confirming Judge Kavanaugh will enshrine doubt in every controversial 5-4 decision moving forward. It also calls into question the legitimacy of this very chamber.
“To my colleagues still wavering on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, I will leave you with this.We will not only be judged by voters this November; we will be judged by history. Let’s show that we are still worthy of being called the world’s greatest deliberative body. Let’s show that we have made progress since 1991. Let’s show that we are willing to take a stand and do the right thing. Because if we are not, any short-term political wins will be forever eclipsed by the permanent stain left on our legacies and this body from which, I fear, there may be no recovering.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”