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WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) joined House Democrats on the House Floor this afternoon to call on Senate Republicans to do their job and hold a hearing and a vote on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Below is a transcript of his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here for a link to the video.
“Madam Speaker, I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee for leading today's special order on the important issue of the vacancy on the Supreme Court and the Senate Republicans' unprecedented, unprecedented obstruction of the President's nominee.
“That nominee, of course, is Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He is one of the most highly qualified nominees ever. Let me repeat that: he is one of the most highly qualified nominees ever to be put forward for a seat on the nation's highest court.
“He's a respected former prosecutor and is well regarded as an appellate judge. He was confirmed to his present position in 1997 by a vote of 76-23 – a majority of Republicans voting in favor. Madam Speaker, in fact, notwithstanding the opposition of some Republicans, they articulated, in particular, Mr. [Charles] Grassley, now Chairman of the [Senate] Judiciary Committee, that Judge Garland was eminently qualified and would be good for an appointment to another Court but that he was not for expanding the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia. And it was for that reason alone he voted against Mr. Garland.
“Mr. Speaker, Madam Speaker, today is the 21st anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Judge Garland, as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton Administration, oversaw the successful investigation into the bombing and the prosecution of its perpetrator. His insistence on traveling to see the remains of the [Alfred P.] Murrah [Federal] Building in the days after the attack and his hands-on approach to the investigation and prosecution won him praise across the political spectrum.
“The Constitution is clear: the President has a responsibility to nominate Justices to the Court, and the Senate has the ability to advise and consent. But it also has the responsibility to provide its advice and consent with regard to these nominees. It can, of course, reject a nominee, and it can advise and consent to the appointment of a nominee. But the Senate has chosen to do neither.
“It has chosen to do nothing. It has chosen to perpetrate gridlock in the Supreme Court of the United States. President Obama met his responsibilities, now the Senate must do the same. It needs to do its work. Senate Republicans can't just pick and choose when to do their job.
“Last month, we saw the real life consequences of an eight-member Supreme Court, as it split 4-4 in a key case concerning the right of the teachers to organize and collect union dues. Now, Madam Speaker, I was pleased with that particular outcome because the lower court had ruled in a way that I thought was appropriate. It is an example, however, of a case too important to be the result of a default to the lower Court. Because of a split bench in cases like these, the Court cannot set a precedent. The American people, however, deserve a Court operating at full strength so that it can establish precedent.
“We cannot wait until after the election to vote on Judge Garland's nomination. Senate Republicans, Madam Speaker, continue to insist that somehow, their obstruction is based in precedent. That a nomination ought not to be made in the final year of the President's term. Ranking Member [John] Conyers, former Chairman of the [House] Judiciary Committee, just spoke today. Nowhere in our Constitution is the President's authority limited by the number of days or months remaining in his or her term. The President is the President from January 20 until January 20 four years later. This is yet another example of Congressional Republicans holding this particular President to a different and unfair standard.
“The Senate confirmed Justice Anthony Kennedy, as has been said, in the final year of President Reagan’s second term. Thirteen other Justices have been confirmed during Presidential election years, including Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Cardozo, two of the great members of the Supreme Court of the United States.
“During the Kennedy confirmation process in 1988, President Ronald Reagan said this, ‘the federal judiciary is too important to be made a political football.’ I would hope the Senate Republicans who often cite President Reagan as a guide for the kind of leader they want to be would heed his admonition. Some have had the political courage to reject their colleague's disrespectful approach of refusing even to meet with Judge Garland. I congratulate them; they are doing their job.
“Not only should all members of the Senate give him the courtesy of a meeting, they ought to do their jobs as well and not stand in the way of the hearing and consideration. The Senate's duty to advise and consent certainly, certainly, Madam Speaker, was not envisioned by the Founders to be optional. Or that the Senate could effectively pocket veto a nomination to the Court. The Senate ought to do its job.
“I don't think a single Founder would have conceived of the possibility of the Court receiving a nomination pursuant to the President's Constitutional responsibility and authority, and simply say, too bad, Mr. President, too bad, Supreme Court. We're not going to consider that nomination. No Founding Father would have conceived that to be possible and they, therefore, didn't provide for a time limit for which a consideration could occur.
“I suggest, Madam Speaker, that if we meet our oath to the Constitution of the United States, to uphold the laws of the United States, that it is incumbent upon us to ensure that the Supreme Court of the United States is fully manned so that it can in fact assure the faithful execution and adherence to the laws and Constitution of this country. I am now pleased to yield back to my colleague from Michigan, Mr. Conyers, and thank him for leading this special order tonight on a subject of profound consequence to all Americans.”