October 04, 2018

Warren Delivers Floor Speech Opposing Kavanaugh Nomination to Supreme Court

Senator's Speech Comes Ahead of Cloture Vote and on Heels of Sham FBI Investigation

Video (YouTube)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) delivered a speech today on the Senate floor in which she spoke out against the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the United States Supreme Court.  In her remarks, Senator Warren discussed three reasons for opposing Judge Kavanaugh's nomination: his record, the broken and biased confirmation process, and the allegations of sexual assault. 

The full text of her remarks is available below.

Remarks by Senator Elizabeth Warren
October 4, 2018

Mr. President, last week millions of people were glued to their screens as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Dr. Ford's account of the most traumatic event of her life was harrowing. The pain of retelling this story was evident. And she did it for no personal gain whatsoever. In fact, her life has been turned upside down as a result of her decision to come forward. The courage she showed was remarkable. Dr. Ford's testimony was credible and compelling. I believe Dr. Ford.

Judge Kavanaugh's testimony was very different. He spent more than 40 minutes ranting, raving and peddling fact-free partisan conspiracy theories. And then he proceeded to insult Senators, to scream at the people who had the nerve to question him.  He evaded some questions, and gave obviously false answers to others.  It was a performance that would have been right at home on talk radio, or in a Republican primary campaign, or at a Donald Trump rally. But it was delivered by a judge who is asking the United States Senate to confirm him to a lifetime appointment to a completely non-political position as the swing vote on the United States Supreme Court.

It is the job of the Senate to decide whether or not to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. Senators must vote yes, or vote no, on elevating him to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. It's not a criminal trial. Nobody is entitled to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. If he is not confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh would still be serving as a federal judge on the SECOND-highest court in the United States. And the President, I am sure, will nominate another candidate for this job. For these reasons, I believe that Dr. Ford's credible allegations, and Judge Kavanaugh's partisan, venomous rant, are sufficient reasons to vote no on his nominations.

Now my colleagues on the other side of the aisle saw the same hearing. They watched Dr. Ford sit through hours of testimony. They heard her when she said clearly and unequivocally that she was 100% sure Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. And they watched Judge Kavanaugh demonstrate to the world that he lacks the temperament and the truthfulness to sit on the nation's highest court.

For those Senators who don't care that Judge Kavanaugh thinks the multiple sexual assault allegations he faces must be quote "revenge on behalf of the Clintons" - who simply aren't sure whether these credible allegations are a sufficient reason to vote no - and who would like to see more evidence - the sensible course of action has always been obvious. A serious, nonpartisan FBI investigation to uncover the truth as best we can, to make sure we are as informed as we can be, before we have to vote. But that is not what has happened.

First, instead of taking Dr. Ford seriously, Mitch McConnell scheduled the committee vote on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination the next day.  He suspended the Senate vote only when it became clear that Republicans wouldn't have the votes they needed if they tried to ram the nomination through the Senate right at that moment.

Then, the President offered the smallest fig-leaf of an FBI investigation. Now I have just come from the secure room where the summaries of FBI interviews and other FBI-generated documents were made available.   Senators have been muzzled, so I will now say four things that committee staff has explained are permissible to say without violating the committee rules, statements that I have independently verified as accurate:

  1. This was not a full and fair investigation.  It was sharply limited in scope and did not explore relevant confirming facts. 
  2. The available documents do not exonerate Mr. Kavanaugh.
  3. The available documents contradict statements Mr. Kavanaugh made under oath.

I would like to back up these three points with explicit statements from the FBI documents, explicit statements that should be available for the American people to see.  But the Republicans have locked the documents behind closed doors, with no plans to inform the American public of any new information about the Kavanaugh nomination.

The Kavanaugh nomination is a sham.  And that's the President's fault. Because the President is the one who limited the scope of this investigation, who refused to allow it to continue for more than a few days, and who refused to ensure that the FBI completed a thorough investigation, including interviews with all relevant witnesses. The statements the President made about the scope of the investigation were false.  And, if that wasn't bad enough, the President has viciously attacked Dr. Ford for bravely coming forward to tell her story.

How could any Senator accept this sham?

It's clear the fix is in. Republicans want to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and they will ignore, suppress, or shout down any inconvenient facts that might give the American people pause about this nomination. Republicans are playing politics with the Supreme Court, and they are willing to step on anyone-including the victim of a vicious sexual assault-in order to advance their agenda.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the highest court in our country is the result of a decades-long assault on our judiciary launched by billionaires and giant corporations who want to control every branch of government. For years, those wealthy and well-connected people have invested massive sums of money into shaping our courts to fit their liking. Working in partnership with their Republican buddies in Congress, they have executed a two-part campaign to capture our courts.

Part One: Stop fair-minded, mainstream judges from getting confirmed to serve on federal courts. And Part Two: flood federal courts with narrow-minded, pro-corporate individuals who will tilt the courts in favor of the rich and powerful and against women, workers, people of color, low-income Americans, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, Native Americans, students, and everyone else who doesn't have money or power right here in Washington.

With Trump in the White House and Congress controlled by Republicans, the wealthy and well-connected have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to control our courts for the next generation.

During his presidential campaign, President Trump made clear that right-wing, pro-corporate groups would not only have a voice in selecting Supreme Court justices - they would get to hand pick their favorites. So those groups handed him a list of their top picks for the Supreme Court, and President Trump has picked judges exclusively from that list. 

His most recent selection is Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Now there are a lot of reasons to oppose Judge Kavanaugh's nomination, and I want to discuss three of them: his record, the broken and biased confirmation process, and the allegations of sexual assault.

Let's start with Judge Kavanaugh's record. Judge Kavanaugh has spent 12 years on the D.C. Circuit Court. His rulings demonstrate why radical, right-wing groups and their friends in the Senate are so eager give him a seat on the Supreme Court. Pick an issue - almost any issue - and there's ample reason to be alarmed.

A woman's right to make her own health care decisions. When the Trump administration sought to block a young immigrant woman's right to access abortion care, Judge Kavanaugh sided with the government, claiming that allowing the woman - who had done everything necessary to obtain access to an abortion - should be further delayed in obtaining that care, a delay that would likely have prevented her from obtaining an abortion.

And when religious organizations challenged the contraceptive care requirement of the Affordable Care Act, Judge Kavanaugh again opposed reproductive care, arguing that requiring religious non-profits to submit a simple form allowing them to opt-out of providing contraceptive coverage but ensuring that their employees had access to that care was unconstitutional.

On consumer protection, Judge Kavanaugh ruled that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - the agency that stands up for Americans cheated by corporate criminals - is unconstitutional.

On environmental safety, he has ruled to overturn the rules that help keep dangerous toxins out of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

On voting rights, he upheld South Carolina's discriminatory voter ID laws. 

On gun safety, he dissented from an opinion upholding an assault weapons ban and a gun registration requirement. In speeches on gun safety, he admitted that most lower-court judges disagree with his extreme position on the Second Amendment.

On money in politics, he wrote an opinion that would permit foreign individuals to spend unlimited sums of money on issue ads in U.S. elections.

Oh, and when it comes to presidential power and the rule of law, Judge Kavanaugh believes that sitting presidents shouldn't be subjected to personal civil or criminal investigations while in office. That's very convenient for the current occupant of the Oval Office.

And that's just the part of Judge Kavanaugh's record that we know about.

And that raises the second reason that Judge Kavanaugh should not be confirmed to the Supreme Court: the secretive process that Republicans have used to advance his nomination. From the moment President Trump announced Judge Kavanaugh's nomination, Republicans have worked overtime to get him on the Supreme Court without giving Senators - or the American people - a meaningful opportunity to examine his full record.

Senate Republicans have played an elaborate game of hide the ball at every step of the process.  Judge Kavanaugh spent many years in government, but the Republicans have refused even to request hundreds of thousands of documents from his time in service.  They have designated other documents as "committee confidential" to hide them from the public. To top it off, just days before Judge Kavanaugh was scheduled to come before the Judiciary Committee, a Bush White House attorney announced that over 100,000 documents from Judge Kavanaugh's time in the White House Counsel's Office would be withheld on the basis of "constitutional privilege."

A few years ago, President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.  Like Judge Kavanaugh, she had served in public office.  She had served. But unlike the Kavanaugh confirmation process, the Kagan process included the release of nearly every document related to her time in service.  In fact, no one has found an example of so much of a nominee's record in government being hidden from the Senate and hidden from the public as in Judge Kavanaugh's case. 

The rushed and secretive process that has characterized Judge Kavanagh's nomination raises this question: What is he hiding?  Why doesn't he insist that his record be made public?  Why doesn't he want a full investigation of the sexual assault claims made against him?  And why won't Republicans insist on transparency and a meaningful investigation? 

Evidently neither Judge Kavanaugh nor many of the Senate Republicans care about the facts.

Judge Kavanaugh has been accused of sexually assaulting multiple women. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez shared their stories of sexual assault at the hands of Judge Kavanaugh, and risked their safety and the safety of their families to do so.

Instead of making sure that these allegations are thoroughly investigated so that Senators, and the public, can make judgments based on facts, Republicans launched a campaign to attack and discredit these courageous women. Donald Trump openly mocked Dr. Ford at a political rally and Republicans have made clear that their one and only goal is to get Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. In fact, just last week, Mitch McConnell told a group of conservatives, and I'm quoting here, "Don't get rattled by all this. We're going to plow right through it..."  Plow right through? Really?

Americans are tired of the powerful plowing right through everyone else to get what they want. There's a reason why so many women and men have come out in droves to support Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez. It's because people are tired of being ignored and silenced.

Judge Kavanaugh and his Republican sponsors don't want to talk about the facts in this case, but let's talk about a few other facts.

Over 80 percent of women and 40 percent of men have experienced sexual harassment or assault.

Seven out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.

The vast majority of sexual assaults - about 2 out of 3 - are never reported to the police.

And why? Because survivors fear retaliation, or believe the police won't or can't do anything to help, or they think it's a personal matter, or they confide in someone other than the police, or they believe it's not serious enough to report, or don't want to get the perpetrator in trouble.

Last week, as Dr. Ford testified before Congress, the National Sexual Assault Hotline saw a 147 percent increase in calls from people seeking help. We have a problem of sexual harassment and sexual violence in America. The problem isn't that too many victims are coming forward with fabricated stories to destroy someone's life. It's that too many survivors are afraid to come forward at all.

They believe they won't be heard or taken seriously, or they think more about the impact on the perpetrator than their own safety and well-being, or they think the people with power - the ones who can actually do something - will instead "plow right through" them.

We never hear the stories of millions of sexual assault survivors. But some make the very difficult and personal decision to come forward and tell their stories. They, like all survivors, are courageous, and they deserve to be heard and treated with respect. Not dismissed, not attacked, not threatened.

The record. The process. The allegations. Whichever way you slice this, it should lead to only one result-members of this chamber should vote no on Judge Kavanaugh. Our country deserves better.