Sep 22 2005

Lindsey Graham Statement on Senate Judiciary Committee Vote on John Roberts Nomination

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. One, I hope Senator Feingold has a long life and he sees many Supreme Court justices come and go. If I can do what my predecessor did, Senator Feingold, I have 50 more years to serve. (LAUGHTER) So this court will flip over four or five times. And I'm going to miss most of you all, by the way. (LAUGHTER) Senator Biden gave me some good advice when I first came to the Senate. He was gracious enough to come down and speak at Senator Thurmond's funeral upon his passing. And I really do like Senator Biden a lot. He said, "Don't ever question a senator's motive. You can argue with their result, you can disagree with how they vote, but don't question their motive." You know, that's great advice. I am going to adopt that advice. I think that if you vote differently than I do, I don't question your motives. But I'll make an observation, too, for the long view of things, because I think Russ is on to something here. What we do here today is definitely going to affect the future. Just for a point of observation, Breyer and Ginsburg and Scalia, I've been told, were reported out of the committee unanimously. Well, that's not going to happen today with Judge Roberts, but I'm not questioning anyone's motives. It's just a fact. I think people have articulated very heart-felt reasons for voting no and yes. And we're already talking about the next nominee in code. Senator Kohl, who voted yes, is talking about the balance of the court with O'Connor. Senator Feingold has mentioned he may not be too receptive to Justice Brown. I can understand that; that's the way this situation is in 2005. But this is my first -- hopefully of many -- Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Mr. Chairman, and I think you've done an excellent job. Senator Leahy, I think you've done an excellent job as the ranking member. I've been very proud of the committee. I've at times refused to come over here because I hated to come, because we'd argue about what time it is. I think the committee distinguished itself very well, I really do. I think the questions were hard, they were probing. And, generally speaking, I think the committee did well. The mystery is gone: I will vote for Judge Roberts. I'm sure everybody was hanging on whether that would happen. (LAUGHTER) But the reason I'm going to vote for him is because I believe that the president does enjoy some deference here. That's what this debate is about right now: the role of the president versus the Senate. Senator Kennedy has articulated what he thought the central issue of the hearing was at the beginning and he concluded with his view of the central issue as whether or not the nominee would roll back certain progress that he's seen in the law. I started out the central issue being whether or not the Senate will allow the president, President Bush, to fulfill a campaign promise he made to the American people, and that is to nominate a well-qualified strict constructionist to the court. Two different views of what the Senate should be doing. He will get confirmed, thanks to people like Senator Kohl and Feingold and Senator Leahy and others. People who vote their conscience against him, they're doing what they think is right. But that is a basic issue the country needs to come to grips with. Senator Reid, when he was indicating that he would vote no, made a statement: "The president is not entitled to very much deference in staffing the third branch of government, the judiciary." And The Washington Post wrote an editorial called, "Words That Will Haunt." I just want to, if I can, in a few minutes, talk about where we're going from here. He's going to be confirmed but the vote totals are going to be fairly dramatically different than they were with Ginsburg, Scalia and Breyer. If you get away from the qualifications, intelligence and character test, which I think had to be in play there, you're setting up a scenario that could haunt us all. If we're going to start looking at people's hearts, that is a very subjective thing to do. Justice Ginsburg -- her writings, as Senator Grassley said, "I admire him for voting because she is qualified but from a conservative's point of view, her view of politics and her writings and the role she played in the law was very hard to swallow." I would just say that one of the attacks on Judge Roberts was that he was a legal genius, well-qualified, intellectually gifted, but we didn't know if he had the worldness of judging others; that he was qualified to really sit in judgment at that level. We're questioning whether or not he's lived his life right. Well, one could argue that if you're for a constitutional right of prostitution, those of us who have been in the criminal law as prosecutors and defense attorneys would probably come out different; that prostitution's not a good business endeavor, that those women who find themselves in the world of prostitution live in hell. We could start questioning whether or not someone who believed in that view of a constitutional right really was connected to the real world as I see it. But, you know, the real world as Lindsey Graham sees it is -- I'm glad you don't adopt it. It would be a very boring place for the country. We all have different value systems and we all have different hot-button items. If we start judging the nominee on, "Will you show allegiance to what I think is most important in the country?" then we're going to politicize the process to the point that I think the role of the president has been dramatically changed and undermined. Woe be on to those judges who have to figure out how to navigate our value systems, our beliefs and show allegiance to our heart. That is a standard I would not want to put on any of you. It's not a standard I want to put on anyone who's going to follow. So there is a fundamental shift in this nomination to, I think, what the standard has been in the past to what it will be in the future. I have a little bit of concern about that. Actually, I have a lot of concern. The reasons to vote no, while I respect those reasons, have been very subjective. They've been around a case or a concept that you find so important that that's going to be the end of the discussion. I would just urge this committee, as we go to the next debate, to remember that Scalia was obviously conservative. There's no way Roberts is more conservative than Scalia. There's no way that Roberts is more challenging and in-you-face than Scalia in his writings. Scalia got 98 votes. Now what's happened? Ginsberg got 96 votes. What's going on? I think Senator Grassley put his finger on it: There's a lot of pressure on us all. This is the easiest vote a Republican will ever make. This is so easy for us to vote for Roberts. It is not easy for you, Russ. I know you are a prominent player in the Democratic Party. This is not easy for Senator Leahy. It is not easy for Senator Kohl. It will not be easy for those who choose to side with Roberts because they're trying to drive down the vote numbers because of the next person to come. Senator Grassley, you're right: Politics is rearing its head like it has not done before. But here's what I worry about, sir: Our day will come. There will be a Democratic president, probably in my lifetime. (LAUGHTER) The pressure that they're feeling, we're going to feel. The compromise -- Senator DeWine and I felt a little bit of pressure -- if we could look at the person before us based on qualifications, character and integrity and not require them to show an allegiance to a particular case or a cause, it would serve the country well. Because liberals and conservatives come and go, but the rule of law is bigger than all of our philosophies. The rule of law is about the process. If you want the law to be outcome-determinative, then the process has been cheapened. The good thing about the law, Mr. Chairman, is that the conservative and liberal philosophy and agenda is parked at the courthouse door and we're judged by facts and what people did before us. There needs to be one place left in American discourse and politics for the quietness of the merits of individuals to trump the loudness of special interest groups. The last place I know of is the courtroom. The reason that I think Justice Roberts will be a justice for the ages -- he's probably the most qualified guy, top two or three people in the history of the nation -- is that he believes beyond anything else that the rule of law is for the unpopular cause, is for the quiet discussion not the loud political campaign, and that he believes deep down and loves the law more than he loves politics. That's all you can ask of anybody that comes through our gatekeeping here: Will you adhere to the law more than you'll adhere to anyone's political philosophy? The president has chosen well. Mr. President, you have done a good service to this nation by choosing someone of such intellect and character who will serve this nation for a long period of time. You have another choice awaiting you. Listen to our Democratic colleagues. Listen to what we have to say. But at the end of the day, ask you to do one thing for the good of your presidency and all to follow: Fulfill your campaign promise of selecting a strict constructionist, well-qualified person who loves the law more than they love politics. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.