Warren Delivers Floor Speech Honoring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Calling on All Americans to Help Fight Republican Attempt to Steal Another Supreme Court Seat
“If this feels personal, that’s because it is. Ruth Ginsburg was a personal hero for me and for millions of other women. Ruth Ginsburg was a woman who never let any man silence her. The most fitting tribute to her is to refuse to be silenced, and to name exactly what Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are trying to do—steal another Supreme Court seat”; “This kind of sleazy double-dealing is the last gasp of a desperate party that is undemocratically over-represented in Congress and in the hall
Washington, DC - Tonight, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) spoke on the Senate floor to honor the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who fought for justice and equality for all throughout her life.
Health care for millions of Americans, the right to join a union, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, Dreamers, a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, our democracy, and so much more are at stake. Justice Ginsburg’s replacement will determine who the highest court in the land works for.
The full text of her remarks is available below.
Remarks by Senator Elizabeth Warren
September 22, 2020
Senator Warren: Trailblazer. Icon. Titan. “Notorious RBG.” Those are just a few of the words that describe the Honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away last Friday.
But there’s another of Justice Ginsburg’s titles that I will always hold dear: friend. As a young mother and baby law student at Rutgers Law School, I had almost no examples of female lawyers or female law professors. And like so many young women who were trying something as seemingly-outlandish as going to law school, it was a really lonely undertaking.
Ruth was one of the few women that we could see—a woman who had made it, and, even better, a woman who was fighting for other women.
As I arrived at Rutgers, Ruth had left Rutgers for Columbia Law School, but Rutgers was a small family, and all the women—and the men—knew about her. She was putting together the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU to give her a way to fight for equality in the courts. Her sharp legal mind and stubborn determination were already legendary, and we were sure she would change the world.
And she did.
I am forever grateful for her example—to me, and to millions of young women who saw her as a role model. I am also forever grateful that she made real change, opening doors that had remained stubbornly closed.
Justice Ginsburg may have been tiny, but she stands among the greatest fighters for justice our nation has ever seen. She turned every barrier into an opportunity for change. And when she became the second woman in our nation’s history to sit on the Supreme Court, she continued her fight for justice: blazing a trail for women’s rights, laying out the framework for protecting our democracy, and helping to secure justice for the most vulnerable.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed the world. And I will miss her.
While I mourn her loss, I also hold close one of the things I loved most about Ruth: she was a fighter. We honor her memory by fighting for the things that Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for during her long career.
A woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.
Health care for millions of Americans.
Dreamers who have made a home here.
Making our nation a place where no one is more likely to be murdered or imprisoned or discriminated against because of the color of their skin, how they worship, or who they love.
Yes. It’s a long list.
Ruth defended it all, and now she is gone. And because she is gone, these rights and values are all on the line—vulnerable to being snatched away by another right-wing tilt of the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg’s replacement will determine who the highest court in the land works for: women and sick kids and workers and immigrants—or billionaires and giant companies and right-wing politicians who want to shrink our democracy in order to stay in power.
Ruth left our nation a note before she died. And her words were clear. She said that her “most fervent wish” was that her replacement not be named “until a new president is installed.”
Now, Senator McConnell has already told us how to deal with the death of a Supreme Court Justice in an election year—a justice whom Senator McConnell treated with respect. In 2016, Justice Scalia died a full 269 days before the presidential election. Months before any American would be able to cast a vote. But in 2016 that didn’t matter to Senator McConnell and his Republican henchmen. They locked arms and insisted there could be no confirmation until after the next president had been elected and sworn in.
Now, in 2020, the world is evidently different. Senator McConnell has made it clear that the practice he used when Justice Scalia died would not be used when Justice Ginsburg died. On the very same night that Justice Ginsburg passed, Mitch McConnell announced that he and Donald Trump would move immediately to name a new Supreme Court justice, despite the fact that voting is already under way across the country and there are only 42 days before the election is completed.
Democrat or Republican, the American people know that is not right. Democrat or Republican, the American people know that treating a Supreme Court vacancy as an opportunity for a naked, partisan, no-holds-barred power grab is burning down the pillars of integrity that support our Senate, our courts, and our democracy. Democrat or Republican, the American people will judge these choices for what they are: shameful.
If this feels personal, that’s because it is. Ruth Ginsburg was a personal hero for me and for millions of other women. Ruth Ginsburg was a woman who never let any man silence her. The most fitting tribute to her is to refuse to be silenced, and to name exactly what Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are trying to do—steal another Supreme Court seat.
This kind of sleazy double-dealing is the last gasp of a desperate party that is undemocratically over-represented in Congress and in the halls of power across our country. The last gasp of a corrupt Republican leadership, numb to its own hypocrisy, that doesn’t reflect the views of the majority of Americans or the values that we hold dear. The last gasp of a right-wing, billionaire-fueled party that wants to hold onto power a little longer in order to impose its extremist agenda on the entire country.
And if Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans ram this nomination through, it is our duty to explore every option we have to restore the Court’s credibility and integrity. Every option to expand our democracy, not shrink it. Every option to ensure that a working single parent and a millionaire corporate executive have equal justice in our courts. And every option to ensure that all Americans are represented in our institutions.
The list of what is at stake if Republicans get their way and their extremist agenda finds a home in the nation’s highest court is truly staggering.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted to protect health care for millions of Americans. In a five-to-four decision, health care was saved for millions of people. But in the midst of a global pandemic, with more than 200,000 of our loved ones dead from a virus raging out of control, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans want to install a justice who will rip that health care away. The Supreme Court will hear arguments just days after the election on whether the Affordable Care Act should be overturned. If Justice Ginsburg is replaced with a McConnell-Trump choice, the five-four decision that saved health care by a single vote could be overturned.
That would strip away protection from anyone with pre-existing conditions.
It would tell people with diabetes, or high blood pressure, cancer; people who have had strokes; and people who have hundreds of other diseases, conditions and events. You’re on your own—no protection from an insurance company that wants to cut off their insurance policies.
It would let insurance companies charge women more simply because they’re women.
It would end the requirement that insurance companies cover young people up to the age of 26.
It would gut Medicaid.
And if you are one of the millions of Americans who has had COVID and survived? Well, gutting the ACA would allow insurance companies to deny coverage because of it. COVID could become your preexisting condition.
Three years ago Mitch McConnell couldn’t get the votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act even in his own Republican-controlled Senate. And why? Because this is not what the American people want. They want access to health care and protection for people with pre-existing conditions. But Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have a Plan B, a plan to advance their right-wing agenda even if most Americans don’t want it. And McConnell and Trump seem to think that if they can steal another Supreme Court seat, they will get it.
And there is more at stake. Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted to protect the rights of all women to make their own decisions about their bodies. Just a few months ago, in another five-to-four decision, Ruth Ginsburg’s vote was crucial to the Supreme Court overturning a Louisiana law designed to make it harder for women to access abortion care. Trump promised to appoint a Supreme Court justice who will overturn Roe, and his two Supreme Court picks have already delivered—agreeing to let Louisiana restrict a woman’s right to choose. Nineteen states now stand ready to gut abortion protections if the Supreme Court overturns Roe. And now Senator McConnell and Senate Republicans want to hand them one more justice so they can get the job done.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg also voted over and over for the principle that American citizens should have an equal right to vote and an equal voice in our democracy. She issued a scathing dissent in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court decision overturning the part of the Voting Rights Act. As the pandemic continues to sweep the nation, the Supreme Court has blocked attempts to make it easier for Americans to safely cast their vote. Just in April, a five-to-four decision, with Justice Ginsburg dissenting, the Court reversed a lower federal court’s decision to expand the deadline for absentee voting in Wisconsin by six days. Republicans know that to stay in power, they need to make it harder for all Americans to participate in the democratic process, and they want a Supreme Court justice who will be committed to rolling back voting rights for decades to come.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood the threat that climate change poses to our children’s and grandchildren’s futures. She joined in the opinion in Massachusetts v. EPA—another five-to-four ruling—which required the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. The Trump administration and Congressional Republicans have actively rolled back regulations that keep our air clean and our water safe, and they are committed to putting another justice on the Supreme Court who will help advance their anti-environment agenda and block any government attempts to tackle the dangers of climate change.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg understood the importance of protecting the rights of workers to join together and fight for fair pay and working conditions. In Epic Systems v. Lewis, she joined the minority in a five-to-four decision, dissenting from the Court’s ruling that employers can ban workers from joining together to demand protections against wage theft and other abuses. A Supreme Court justice handpicked by Trump and McConnell could turn back the clock even more on workers’ rights.
Throughout her life, Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for justice and equality for all Americans.
And now, Americans across this country are following in Justice Ginsburg’s footsteps: Americans are speaking out and demanding change. And they are voting. With a pandemic raging out of control thanks to the incompetence and the corruption of Donald Trump and his Republican enablers, with a battered economy and millions of people out of work, with Americans across the country calling for an end to the systemic racism that has cut short the lives of countless Black men and women, Americans understand now more than ever that this year’s elections will determine the direction of our nation for generations to come.
Today, Ruth is gone. But her life’s work endures. We will honor her with action and channel our grief into change. We are at the cusp of a brighter day in our nation, and this is the moment we must tap into the reserves that we didn’t know we had. We tap into the reserves bequeathed to us from fighters we’ve recently lost like Justice Ginsburg and Congressman Elijah Cummings and Congressman John Lewis, and from the knowledge that we cannot—we will not—leave our children worse off.
Three years ago, I watched our nation rise up in the face of impossible odds and defend health care when Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell wanted to strip away care from millions of Americans. We face those same odds today, as we again fight to protect the health care of those same Americans, and to protect so much more. But I have hope. Because I know that this is a righteous fight, and I know that millions of other Americans are also in this fight.
Before she died, Ruth gave us our marching orders. Do not fill this Supreme Court seat until after the election when the next president is installed. We have our call to action. We honor her legacy by continuing the fight for justice, for equality, and for dignity. The fight for a world where we finally make those words “equal justice under law” real.
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