Sep 12 2005

Senator Graham's Opening Statement on John Roberts

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on the nomination of John Roberts to the United States Supreme Court. Graham is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thanks for the seventh inning stretch, too. We all very much appreciate it. Judge Roberts, playing a little bit off of what my colleague Senator Feingold said, I don't think you expected it to be easy. Having to listen to 18 senators proves the fact that it's not going to be easy. But I hope we will live up to our end of the bargain to make it fair. Fair is something that comes around in September in South Carolina or it can be an idea. The idea of treating you fairly is very important to me because not only are you on display, but the Senate's on display. Senator Kennedy said something that I disagree with, but he's very passionate in his statement. He said the central issue is whether or not you will embrace policies, a certain set of policies, or whether or not you will roll back certain policy decisions. I respectfully disagree with Senator Kennedy. To me, the central issue before the Senate is whether or not the Senate will allow President Bush to fulfill his campaign promise to appoint a well- qualified, strict constructionist to the Supreme Court. And -- in this case -- appoint a Chief Justice to the Supreme Court in the mold of Justice Rehnquist. He's been elected president twice. He has not hidden from the public what his view of a Supreme Court justice should be and the philosophy they should embrace. In my opinion -- by picking you -- he has lived up to his end of the bargain with the American people by choosing a well-qualified, strict constructionist. You have been described as brilliant, talented and well- qualified, and that's by Democrats. The question is, is that enough in 2005 to get confirmed? Maybe not. Professor Michael Gerhardt wrote an article in 2000 called The Federal Appointments Process, and I think he has given some advice to our Democratic friends in the past and, maybe recently, about the confirmation process that we're engaged in today. He has written, the Constitution establishes a presumption of confirmation that works to the advantage of the president and his nominee. I agree with that. Elections matter. We're not here to debate how to solve all the nation's problems. We're not here to talk about liberal philosophy versus conservative philosophy and what's best for the country. We're here to talk about you and whether or not you are qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, whether or not you have the intellect, the integrity and the character. It has been said in the past by members of this committee -- Senator Kennedy -- I believe -- it's recognized by most senators that we're not charged with a responsibility of approving justices if their views always coincide with our own. We're really interested in knowing whether a nominee has the background, experience, qualifications, temperament, integrity to handle the most sensitive, important and responsible job. And that's being on the Supreme Court. If you're looking for consistency, you've probably come to the wrong place, because the truth of the matter is that we're all involved in the electoral process ourselves and we have different agendas. Your memos are going to be talked about. The memos you wrote while you were working for President Reagan and Bush 1, in my opinion, reflect a conservative lawyer advising a conservative president about conservative policies. To some, those policies make no sense; those policies are out of the mainstream. But this hearing is about whether or not you're qualified. Not whether Reagan conservatism is in the mainstream. Does affirmative action require quotas? From a conservative point of view, no. From a conservative point of view, we don't want federal judges setting the value of someone's wages from the bench. You wrote about that. Now, some people want that, but conservatives don't. Environmental policies: We want a clean environment, but we don't want to ruin the economy in the process. We want to be able to build levees to protect cities. Conservatives have a different view of a lot of issues versus our friends on the other side. The election determines how that shakes out. We're here to determine whether or not you and all you've done in your life makes you a fitting candidate to be on the Supreme Court. Before we got here, the Senate was in disarray. May 23rd of this year, I engaged in a compromise agreement with seven Democrats and seven Republicans to keep the Senate from blowing itself up. You're the first nomination that we've dealt with in any significant manner after that agreement. There's plenty of blame to go around, Judge Roberts. On our watch, I'm sure we did things in committee that were very unfair to Democrat nominees, particularly by President Clinton. At the time of that agreement, there were 10 people being filibustered, for the first time in the history of the Senate, in a partisan manner, that were going to be on the court of appeals. We were in chaos. We were at each other's throats. Since May 23rd, we've done better. The Senate has gotten back to a more traditional role when it comes to judges. As Senator Specter described the committee, we've done some good things on this committee and in the Senate as a whole. I hope we will take the chance to start over because the public approval of the Senate now is in the 30s. That’s not your fault, Judge Roberts; it's our fault. We have an opportunity as senators to show we can disagree based on philosophy but give you a fair shake. The question is whether we'll rise to the occasion. I'm hopeful we will based on the statements being made. What is the standard for a senator to confirm a Supreme Court nominee? Whatever the senator wants it to be. And, really, that's the way it should be. But there should be some goals, in my opinion. The way we conduct ourselves, one of the goals we should have, is to make sure we don't run good people away from wanting to be a judge. I don't know what it's like to sit at home and turn on the television and watch a commercial about you in the presence of your wife and your kids that say some pretty unflattering things. That's just not a problem you've faced. I'm sure Democratic nominees have faced the same type problem. We shouldn't, in our standard, be trying to come up with a standard to invalidate elections. The president won. The president told us what he's going to do and he did it. He picked a strict constructionist to be on the Supreme Court. If anybody is surprised, they weren't listening to the last campaign. Roe v. Wade: It divides America. If you believe in polling, most Americans would like to see the decision stand even though we're divided 50-50 on the idea of abortion on demand. My good friend from California has expressed a view about Roe v. Wade which I completely understand and respect. I can just tell you, Judge Roberts, there are plenty of women in South Carolina who have an opposite view about abortion. If we were to make our votes, base our votes on that one principle, Justice Ginsburg would not be Justice Ginsburg. In her writing, she embraced the idea of federal funding for abortion. She indicated that an abortion right was based on the equal protection clause of the Constitution. I dare say 90 percent of the Republican Caucus is pro-life. I dare say 90 percent of the Democratic Caucus is pro-choice. Justice Ginsburg got 96 votes even though she expressed a view of the federal government's role in abortion that I completely disagree with and I think most conservatives disagree with. There was a time not too long ago, Judge Roberts, where it was about the way you lived your life, how you conducted yourself, what kind of lawyer you were, what kind of man or woman you were, not whether you had an allegiance to a specific case or a particular cause. Let's get back to those days. Let's get back to the days where the Ginsburg’s and the Scalia’s can be pushed and pressed, but they can be honored for their commitment to the law and the way they live their life. Let's get back to the good old days where we understood that we were looking for well-qualified people to sit on the highest court of the land -- not political clones of our own philosophy. The reason I signed the agreement more than anything else was that I love the law. The role of the law in our society is so important. You take out the rule of law and you don't have a democracy. The law, Judge Roberts, to me, represents a quiet place in American discourse. Politics is a loud, noisy and destructive place. But the courtroom is a quiet place where the weak can challenge the strong and the unpopular can be heard. I know you will honor the rule of law in our country and that you will be a judge that we all can be proud of. God bless you and your family. ##### Note: Audio of Senator Graham's statement is available at the Senate Republican Conference radio page.