March 17, 2016 - Issue: Vol. 162, No. 43 — Daily Edition114th Congress (2015 - 2016) - 2nd Session
FILLING THE SUPREME COURT VACANCY; Congressional Record Vol. 162, No. 43
(Senate - March 17, 2016)
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[Pages S1559-S1560] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] FILLING THE SUPREME COURT VACANCY Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, on another matter, we all know that yesterday President Obama exercised his authority under the U.S. Constitution to suggest to the Senate a nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States. During the announcement, President Obama spent time talking about the serious task of selecting a Supreme Court nominee, particularly one to succeed a legal lion such as Justice Scalia, whom the President appropriately called one of the most influential jurists of our time. His point was that the Supreme Court of the United States--the highest Court in the land--is an institution of unparalleled importance. What happens at the Supreme Court affects the lives of every American. So lifetime appointments to this most powerful Court in the land should not be taken lightly. As the President put it, our Supreme Court Justices have been given the role as the ``final arbiters of American law'' for more than 200 years. Of course, today they consider and answer some of the most pressing and challenging controversies and questions of our time. I agree with what the President said to that point. We all know the Supreme Court is critical to our form of self- government and our democracy, and the role it serves is an essential one. When it plays a role our Founders did not intend, it really undermines respect for the rule of law and for the Court as an institution. So the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice should be handled thoroughly and thoughtfully. I understand the President is taking his authority seriously, but under the same Constitution--the same Constitution that gives the President the authority to nominate a person to fill this vacancy--that same Constitution has a separate responsibility for the U.S. Senate either to grant or to withhold consent to that nomination. With the passing of Justice Scalia, the Senate must exercise its constitutional authority as well. Regardless of how we come down on the controversy of the day with regard to when this vacancy should be filled, we all take this responsibility seriously, and because of that, I believe we should follow the examples set by the minority leader, Senator Reid; the senior Senator from New York, Mr. Schumer; and Vice President Biden when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee--their admonitions made over the years when they were in the majority--and not move forward with the President's nominee at this time. I think it is only a matter of fundamental fairness to apply the same rules to the same situation no matter who is in the majority and who is in the minority. When they were in the majority, they argued that these vacancies should not be filled the last year of the President's term of office. Joe Biden did that in 1992 during the Presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush. Senator Reid made that same argument when George W. Bush was President of the United States. And in 2007, 18 months before George W. Bush left office, Senator Schumer, the heir apparent to the Democratic leader, said there should be a presumption against confirmation. So it is only fair to play by the same set of rules which they themselves advocated. Based on the conduct, based on the behavior of our Democratic colleagues when they were in the majority--well, first when they were in the minority, when they filibustered judges for the first time, and later when they were in the majority, before they saw the majority flip to Republicans, the Democratic leader packed the DC Circuit Court of Appeals by invoking the so-called nuclear option, breaking the Senate rules in a raw display of political power in order to pack a court that many people call the second most important court in the land. So this lifetime appointment to the Court is a critical check on the executive branch--a check this administration has proved over and over again we need desperately. As others and I pointed out long before the President announced this nominee, this nomination will change the ideological balance of the Supreme Court for a generation. Justice Scalia served for 30 years. Because of that, because of all of this, I believe the American people should have their voices heard in the selection of the next Supreme Court nominee. We have already undertaken the process here of the Democrats choosing their nominee for President, and Republicans are doing the same. There is simply too much at stake to leave this decision in the hands of a President who is headed out the door--a decision that will have dramatic consequences on the balance of the Court and the direction of the country for a generation to come. I believe we should listen to the voices of the American people and allow them to cast their vote and to raise their voice and determine who will make that selection. I know there have been some members of the press who have asked: Well, if not now, how about in a lameduck session of the Congress; that is, after the election and before the new President is confirmed? [[Page S1560]] I think that is a terrible idea. If you believe in the principle that the American peoples' voice ought to be heard, it makes no sense to have an election and then to do it and not honor their selection. So I know some have expressed some concern about that. I, for one, believe we ought to be consistent. That consistent position and the consistent principle are that the American people deserve to be heard and their voice heeded on who makes that selection to something as important as filling this vacancy on the Supreme Court. I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll. Ms. CANTWELL. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. ____________________