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Judging the Environment judicial nominations photo

A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Senator Statements


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Sen. Feinstein Sets the Record Straight on Blue Slip, Speaks Against Right-Wing Nominees
(Democrat - California) 07/13/17
"I intend to support Mr. Newsom for the Eleventh Circuit, but I need to make a point about blue slips first. In February 2016, President Obama nominated U.S. District Court Judge Abdul Kallon for this very same vacancy on the Eleventh Circuit. A few years earlier, Judge Kallon had been unanimously confirmed with the support of Senators Shelby and Sessions when he was nominated to the federal district court bench. However, Judge Kallon did not receive a hearing in this committee last year because Senators Shelby and Sessions did not support his elevation to the circuit court and thus did not return their blue slips. That’s the prerogative of home state senators for judicial nominees from their states—including circuit court judges and it has existed for 100 years.... President Obama’s nominee Judge Kallon and three other circuit nominees waited nine, 10, up to 11 months for blue slips that never came .... I am not able to support Mr. Bush’s nomination to the Sixth Circuit or Mr. Schiff’s nomination to the Court of Federal Claims.... they expressed strident, provocative and in some cases deeply offensive opinions on a wide range of political and legal issues. If I were a litigant before them, I would not have the confidence that these individuals had the temperament or impartiality to serve as a federal judge.... Bush wrote blog posts where he relied on extreme right-wing sources like World Net Daily .... Schiff referred to Justice Kennedy as a ‘judicial prostitute,’ and accused Justice Kennedy of ‘selling his vote as it were to four other justices in exchange for the high that comes from aggrandizement of power and influence.’ Shocking. Mr. Schiff also criticized a California school district’s proposed anti-bullying initiative for teaching that ‘homosexual families are the moral equivalent of traditional heterosexual families.’ Lastly, Mr. Schiff has repeatedly made clear his hostility to environmental laws that protect our clean air and clean water."

Sen. Cardin Votes Against Gorsuch Nomination
(Democrat - Maryland) 04/07/17
"After meeting with Judge Gorsuch and thoroughly reviewing his record, I am deeply troubled by his nomination and his potential impact on the Supreme Court. “Judge Gorsuch’s extensive legal record is peppered with examples of putting corporate interests before working Americans, showing hostility to agency decisions that protect our environment, disregard for women’s health, marginalizing students with disabilities and many more troubling decisions. His ideology could move the country backwards on guaranteeing equal justice under the law for all Americans, putting powerful special interests above individual rights. His activist views and opinions as a judge make it difficult for me to believe he can separate his political views from his legal analysis. He said little of substance at his confirmation hearing that could demonstrate that he would serve as an independent check on this president, who has tested the limits of the Constitution and the separation of powers. And unlike Judge Merrick Garland, who was considered by almost all independent judicial scholars as mainstream, Judge Gorsuch does not enjoy a similar evaluation. “There is no equivalency between the nomination of Judge Garland, who received the ultimate partisan filibuster from Republicans by not even receiving a hearing or a vote, and Judge Gorsuch, who has been placed onto the Supreme Court only after a Senate rules change, causing lasting damage to the future of the Senate."

Sen. Sanders Statement on Republicans' Use of 'Nuclear Option'
(Independent - Vermont) 04/06/17
"I am deeply disappointed that Republicans changed the rules so that they could push through their nominee with fewer than 60 votes. A lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be done in a bipartisan way, but unfortunately Mitch McConnell chose to do it in an extremely partisan manner. Further, I am deeply concerned about the role that Judge Gorsuch will play on the Supreme Court. I fear very much that he will be part of an extreme right-wing majority that will attack workers’ rights, women’s rights and environmental protection as well as make our political system less democratic."

Sen. Cantwell Statement on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Nomination to U.S. Supreme Court
(Democrat - Washington) 03/30/17
“While no one expects Judge Gorsuch to reveal how he would rule on particular cases, during his Senate confirmation hearing he did not give Senators enough background about his judicial philosophy.... I am also troubled by Judge Gorsuch’s decision in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) case which was recently rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.... Judge Gorsuch has concluded Chevron vs. NRDC should be overturned.... Overturning this doctrine could make it easier for courts to overturn important agency decisions protecting public health and the environment.... orsuch has also ruled against women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. He has frequently sided with employers over employees and favored corporate interests over public interests.... I cannot support cloture and will not support the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Sen. Feinstein Speaks at Supreme Court Nomination Hearing
(Democrat - California) 03/20/17
"Unfortunately, due to unprecedented treatment, Judge Garland was denied a hearing .... It is the Supreme Court that will have the final word on whether corporations will be able to pollute our air and water with impunity.... Congress relies on agency experts to write the specific rules, regulations, guidelines and procedures necessary to carry out laws we enact. These are what ensure the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to protect our environment from pollution.... Judge Gorsuch’s position, were it to be adopted, would take away agencies’ authorities to address these necessary details.... if we were to dogmatically adhere to “originalist” interpretations, then we would still have segregated schools and bans on interracial marriage. Women wouldn’t be entitled to equal protection under the law. And government discrimination against LGBT Americans would be permitted."

Sen. Hirono: Supreme Court Vacancy Is About Future of Our Country
(Democrat - Hawaii) 03/20/17
"[Y]ou have gone to great lengths to disagree with your colleagues on the 10th Circuit so that you can explain why some obscure or novel legal interpretation of a particular word in statute must result in finding for a corporation instead of an individual who has suffered real life harm. This tendency demonstrates a commitment to ideology over common sense, and the purpose of the law, and is deeply troubling.... Will the Court protect our land, water, and earth or gut decades of environmental regulations? Will the Court protect access to our justice system or slam the courthouse doors to all but the wealthiest among us?"

Sen. Klobuchar Opening Statement at Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing for Judge Gorsuch
(Democrat - Minnesota) 03/20/17
"These modern agency decisions include things like rules protecting public safety, requirements against lead-based paint, and clean water protections for our Great Lakes. Last year, in your concurring opinion to a decision that you authored in Gutierrez v. Lynch, you suggested that Chevron should be overturned. Yet this act would have titanic real-world implications on all aspects of our everyday lives. Countless rules could be in jeopardy, protections that matter to the American people would be compromised, and there would be widespread uncertainty about our laws.

(Democrat - Montana) 02/06/17
"Every Supreme Court nominee deserves a fair shake, and the same goes for Judge Gorsuch. We had a productive meeting, and I will continue to review his qualifications and get feedback from Montanans about his nomination to our nation's top court. As I continue to review his body of work, I will be looking to ensure he understands Montana and our challenges, as well as the Constitution and that he is committed to protecting our freedoms." Following the meeting, Tester expressed concerns about Gorsuch's record on women's access to health care. In the meeting, Tester also questioned Gorsuch on a series of topics that are likely to come before the court, including corporate influence in campaigns, civil liberties, and protecting Montana's clean air and water.

Sen. Durbin Floor Statement: Nomination of Neil Gorsuch [and 60 vote margin]
(Democrat - Illinois) 02/02/17
[S627] "Even though my Republican colleagues chose to ignore their responsibilities when it came to filling that Supreme Court vacancy in an election year, I know we have a constitutional responsibility to give Judge Gorsuch a hearing and a vote.... He was confirmed to the Tenth Circuit in 2006, but the level of scrutiny is far higher for Supreme Court nominees and lifetime appointments to the High Court. He now has a lengthy judicial record which we will review carefully. There are parts of his record that already raise questions and concerns. In recent years, we have watched the Supreme Court transform into a corporate Court, where all too often cases seem to break for the big corporations, regularly against the little guy. We need a Supreme Court that gives the American people a fair shot against corporate elites, corporate special interests. Judge Gorsuch's record as a judge and advocate raises concerns as to whether he would hasten that trend toward a corporate court.... Judge Gorsuch appears to have a consistent pattern of favoring companies over workers in cases involving employment discrimination, worker safety, and other matters. ... Is he going to bend toward the corporate interests and look the other way as we face climate change, the pollution of streams, the contamination of our drinking water, and dangers to our public health? ... Since the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, Supreme Court Justices have had to show they can pass the threshold of 60 votes to get confirmed. I expect nothing less from this nominee."

Sen. Feinstein Requests Delay on Sessions Vote, Links Nomination to Weekend Marches
(Democrat - California) 01/24/17
"This nomination is a very big deal. On Sunday, we received 188 pages of responses to questions submitted for the record following the Sessions hearing. ... In addition, we’ve been told that some members may have follow up questions they would like to submit....ensuring equal rights for all, upholding voting rights for all, demanding equal pay for equal work, maintaining worker’s rights and protecting our environment. It is these principles, these values, that the attorney general must defend. ... Many, many millions of Americans are deeply concerned about what the future will bring. That’s a hallmark of what happened this past Saturday in the march. The least we can do is tell them that we’re being as careful as possible in who we place in charge of making these important decisions. For every woman and man who marched over the weekend, we owe it to them."

Sen. Warren motions to vote on 15, 9, 4 and then 1 district court nominees the Judiciary Committee approved by voice vote
(Democrat - Massachusetts) 06/08/16
"Republicans have slowed down the confirmation of judicial nominees to a crawl--the people needed to resolve important legal disputes.... Start with district court judges, the men and women who resolve disputes over how government works and whether the Constitution or Federal laws are being respected. They do an enormous amount of work. Their work is not political. Democratic and Republican Senators have worked with the President to select these nominees. As of today the Senate Judiciary Committee has cleared 15 people who were nominated for seats on the Federal district courts. These nominees have the support of Democrats and Republicans.... On Monday, I wanted to come to the Senate floor to make the request I just made but I guess the majority leader ... didn't want to draw any more attention to the Republicans' unprecedented blockade of judicial nominations. So the Republicans offered me a deal: Just go away, and we will confirm two Court of International Trade judges.... These two uncontroversial nominees have been twisting in the wind for 336 days. They are highly qualified, honorable lawyers who are ready to serve their country. So on Monday, I took the deal. The Republicans released two hostages, and the Senate confirmed them by a voice vote, without objection--not a single objection nearly a year after they were nominated. Today, the majority leader isn't offering to release any hostages ... The Constitution is clear. The Senate's job is to provide advice and consent on the President's judicial nominees. There is no asterisk that says ``only when the majority leader has an embarrassing political problem'' or ``except when the President is named Barrack Obama.'' It is not what the Founders had in mind because it is small, it is petty, and it is absurd. For these district court nominees, the U.S. Senate should be asking one question and one question only: Are these judges qualified or are they not qualified? That is it. But that is not what is happening in the U.S. Senate. Instead, good people twist in the wind, hung up as political hostages, and that is undermining the integrity of our courts. So if you will not give all 15 judges their votes, let's at least have a vote on the 9 district court nominees who had their Judiciary Committee hearings last year. Senator Toomey called for some of these nominees to be confirmed last month. All of these nominees have been waiting for at least 6 months--almost 200 days--since their hearings. When President Reagan was in office, almost no uncontroversial nominees took longer than 100 days to confirm from the day they were nominated. The delay is ridiculous. Give them their votes.... Since they took charge of the Senate last year, these Republicans are on pace for the lowest number of judicial confirmations in more than 60 years."

(Republican - Missouri) 04/06/16
" What the Senate has to decide when there is a nomination to the Supreme Court is this: Is this the right time for this vacancy to be filled, and then is this the right person? In election years, the Senate for most of the history of the country has decided it wasn't the right time.... The EPA is saying we have the authority to regulate navigable waters, and so we are going to get involved in your peat moss farm, because even though it is 120 miles from any navigable waters, the water from your peat moss farm could run into other water that could run into other water that 120 miles away would run into navigable waters. Look right here in the Clean Air Act. [sic] ... Even if somehow a nominee began the process right now, I think the average has been about 54 days. That is the 9 months it took to get to Judge Kennedy and less than that it took to get to somebody else.[sic]"

(Republican - Iowa) 02/25/16
"The President packed the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, which reviews these regulations, so they are going to have a friendly judge who says that whatever these bureaucrats do that may even be illegal or unconstitutional, they can get away with it.... The American people can decide whether they want another Justice who just decides cases based on what they feel in their ``heart,'' and who buys into this notion of a ``living Constitution,'' or whether they want a man or woman who believes the text means what it says"

Sen. Cantwell Floor statement opposing unsuccessful amendment
(Democrat - Washington) 01/21/15
"This amendment makes it very difficult for citizens to retain counsel, particularly related to the Endangered Species Act. I don't know why we would be handicapping legal cases just because they deal with the environment. ... the ESA was signed into law in 1973 by then-President Richard Nixon and was intentionally drafted to manage and to engage citizens in the protection of endangered species.... the Lee amendment would weaken the prevailing citizen's request for reimbursement under an Endangered Species Act--and narrow those restrictions of equal access to justice. This is because the cap on fees would include the Equal Access to Justice Act, which often falls well below the market-based rate for attorneys. Basically, what the Lee amendment does is say you will not be able to recap on the attorneys' fees at the cost of doing business, and their hope is that citizens will then not have representation before the courts on issues such as clean air, clean water, and other environmental issues."

Sen. Cardin Floor Statement in strong support of Judge Robert Wilkins D.C. Circuit nomination
(Democrat - Maryland) 01/14/14
"I was pleased to introduce Judge Wilkins to the Judiciary Committee in September and the committee favorably reported his nomination in October. He was filibustered in November, and I am pleased we are reconsidering his nomination today.... This court handles unusually complex cases in the area of administrative law, including revealing decisions and rulemaking of many Federal agencies in policy areas, such as environment, labor, and financial regulations. Nationally, only about 15 percent of the appeals are administrative in nature--15 percent. That is the national number. In the DC Circuit, that figure is 43 percent. They have a much larger caseload of complex cases.... Let me quote from former Chief Judge Henry Edwards, who said: '[R]eview of large, multiparty, difficult administrative appeals is the staple of judicial work in the DC Circuit. This alone distinguishes the work of the DC Circuit from the work of other circuits. It also explains why it is impossible to compare the work of the DC Circuit with other circuits by simply referring to raw data on case filings.' I mention that because there have been some here who say ``the workload of the court.'' The workload of the court requires us to fill this vacancy. Chief Justice Roberts noted that ``about two-thirds of the cases before the DC Circuit involved the Federal Government in some civil capacity, while that figure is less than twenty-five percent nationwide.'' He also described the ``D.C. Circuit's unique character, as a court with special responsibility to review legal challenges to the conduct of the national government.'' He should know. Justice Roberts came from that circuit court."

Sen. Merkley: Advice and Consent Role Restored in Senate, Praises Millett Confirmation
(Democrat - Oregon) 12/10/13
“Today’s vote shows that the constitutional concept of ‘advice and consent’ has been restored in the United States Senate. There is no doubt that Patricia Millett is extremely qualified and will be a valuable addition to the D.C. Circuit Court, which will rule on issues that directly and deeply impact middle class families, like health care, workplace safety, and clean air and water rules. I am pleased that the Senate has confirmed this qualified nominee. We must now confirm the remaining nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court and the Executive Branch without delay.”

Sen. Merkley: Rules Change a Victory for the American People; Ending Abusive Filibuster on Nominations Big Step to Restoring Functionality of the Senate
(Democrat - Oregon) 11/21/13
"The judges on the DC Circuit Court rule on issues that directly and deeply impact middle class families, like health care, workplace safety, and clean air and water rules."

Sen. Warren Floor Statement on Judicial Nominations, Supreme Court & D.C. Circuit
(Democrat - Massachusetts) 11/13/13
"Nine of the 14 judges on the DC Circuit who currently hear cases were appointed by Republican Presidents. The President with the most appointees on that court right now is Ronald Reagan.... Many Republicans have talked openly of their opposition to any new judges to fill the three vacancies on this court precisely because the new nominees will give the court more balance and fairness. Republicans may prefer a rigged court that gives their corporate friends and their armies of lobbyists and lawyers a second chance to undercut the will of Congress, but that is not the job of judges.... There are three vacancies on the DC Circuit, and the President has nominated three impressive people to fill those vacancies--including Patricia Millett and Nina Pillard . These nominees are not ideological. They have extraordinary legal resumes ... We need to call out these filibusters for what they are--naked attempts to nullify the results of the last Presidential election, to force us to govern as though President Obama had not won the 2012 election."

Sen. Cantwell on D.C. Circuit Nominations and Women Judges
(Democrat - Washington) 11/07/13
"[D]o we have to get women elected to the Senate to get women on the Judiciary Committee to get women on the courts because our colleagues aren't going to help us do that? I am rising to support moving these nominations. President Obama has nominated Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Millett. We want to see these vacancies filled. We don't want the same dysfunction which led to a government shutdown to let us move toward the kind of the stopping of putting people on the court. Nominating highly qualified individuals is what the President's job is, and filling seats on the court is not packing the court. It is simply doing the job. ... Just 32 percent of the U.S. Appeals Court judges are women. In my opinion, it is time to move forward with more highly qualified nominees to add diversity to the courts.... we need a court that is fully staffed. The primary responsibility of this court is the handling of cases involving Federal regulations on environmental safety, health care reform, and insider trading. ...I hope we can move forward. Ms. Millett is the second female nominee opposed by Republicans after the nomination of Georgetown professor Pillard was filibustered. However, she joins a long list of judicial nominees who happen to be female who have been opposed, not because of their qualifications but because they were nominated by this President. I will submit that list for the RECORD. I hope this discussion today points out the need of more women on the courts. Maybe we also need more women elected to the Senate so we can make sure we get more women on the courts."

Sen. Murray Floor Statement on D.C. Circuit vacancies and Patricia Millett nomination
(Democrat - Washington) 10/31/13
"As she awaits Senate confirmation, I am proud to say Patricia's nomination is supported by Blue Star Families, by veterans, and active-duty members of the Armed Forces, who today stand with her as she prepares to serve her country once more. ... I rise today to not only speak in strong support of Patricia's nomination, but also to decry the decision by Senate Republicans to once again play politics with President Obama's nominees and to place partisanship above all else. I rise today because my colleagues in the minority have declared it unnecessary to fill the three vacancies on the DC Circuit, including the seat to which Patricia has been nominated.... belied by Senate Republicans' confirmation of President Bush's nominees to these same seats and by the fact that the DC Circuit caseload has been consistent over the past decade and has even increased in recent years. In fact, when John Roberts, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, last held the seat Patricia would occupy, his caseload was lower than the pending caseload Patricia will encounter on her first day as a judge. ... From decisions affecting our clean air and water, to decisions having broad implications for labor relations, elections, and how we interpret and apply the Americans with Disabilities Act--decisions by the DC Circuit impact not only the quality of our lives today, but also our children's lives tomorrow. Most importantly for our men and women in uniform, for our veterans, and for their families, the DC Circuit has jurisdiction over the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.... I urge my colleagues to set aside partisanship and politics and allow an up or down vote on Patricia's nomination."

Sen. Warren speech: The Corporate Capture of the Federal Courts
(Democrat - Massachusetts) 06/13/13
"[T]here is an intense fight going on, right now, over what our federal courts will look like. It is a fight over whether those courts will remain a neutral forum, faithfully interpreting the law and dispensing fair and impartial justice – or whether we will see the corporate capture of the federal courts, with the courts transformed into one more rigged game.... I think diversity of experience matters.... Another important reason why we are at serious risk of losing this fight is the increasingly brazen and ideological pro-corporate tilt of our most important federal courts – especially the Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit....And the next time you hear someone claim that the D.C. Circuit doesn’t need any more judges, you can remind them that the President with the most appointees sitting on the D.C.Circuit right now is Ronald Reagan. ... Above all, we must make judicial nominations a priority. It’s time for a new generation of judges, judges whose life experience extends beyond big firms, federal prosecution, and whitecollar defense. We need sustained pressure to get those judges in front of the Senate."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Caitlin Halligan Nomination
(Democrat - Rhode Island) 03/06/13
"Senate Republicans confirmed President Bush's nominees for the 9th, 10th, and 11th seats on the DC Circuit without concerns about caseload. That court's caseload has only gone up in since then. Also, the DC Circuit's caseload is uniquely challenging, as the former chief judge of the DC Circuit, Patricia Wald, has explained ... So let's return to the principle that barring ``extraordinary circumstances'' a nominee should receive a prompt up-or-down vote on the floor, and let's confirm the nomination of the outstanding nominee before us today, Caitlin Halligan."

Diversity matters on the Supreme Court (Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin)
(Democrat - Maryland) 10/07/10
"If you work for a living, if you're a woman, if you vote, if you care about the air we breathe or the water you drink, if you're a consumer, you need to be concerned about the Supreme Court. The White House and the Senate should also be working to increase the diversity of the judges on the lower federal courts, which hear the vast majority of cases. ...With the nomination of Judge Albert Diaz of North Carolina, the Senate has another opportunity to increase diversity on the Fourth Circuit. If confirmed, Judge Diaz would be the first Latino judge to ever sit on the Fourth Circuit in its history. President Obama is trying to reshape the federal judiciary to reflect American society. He has nominated women and minorities at an unprecedented rate. Of Obama’s 70 Appellate and District Court nominees, 44% are female and 43% are minorities. By contrast, of the 322 confirmed judges during the Bush administration, only 22% were women and less than 18% were minorities. President Obama has made great strides in trying to create a judiciary that is representative of the people. If only the Senate could move forward and actually confirm more of these fine jurists."

Sen. Ben Cardin: The nominee's responses were impressive
(Democrat - Maryland) 07/11/10
" I was impressed by Kagan's responses, her knowledge of the law and her unshakable demeanor. I believe Elena Kagan possesses the qualifications and judicial temperament to be a member of the Supreme Court."

Sen. Kaufman Opening Statement: Confirmation Hearing for Elena Kagan
(Democrat - Delaware) 06/30/10
"Whether it's pre-empting state consumer protection laws in Medtronic, striking down punitive damages awards in Exxon, restricting access to the courts in Twombly, or overruling 96 years of pro-consumer antitrust law in Leegin, this Court gives me the impression that in business cases, the working majority is business-oriented to a fault. The Exxon case demonstrates how this pro-business orientation can affect the lives of ordinary people. In that case, four of the eight Justices who participated voted to bar all punitive damages in maritime cases against employers like Exxon for their employees' reckless conduct. Justice Alito did not participate in the case, so the Court split four-to-four on this point. But had he participated, and voted with the conservatives on the Court, then today individuals harmed by oil spills like Exxon Valdez would be subject to a flat ban on punitive damages in maritime actions. As we consider the current disaster in the Gulf, that prospect is worth contemplating."

Sen. Franken Opening Statement: Confirmation Hearing of Elena Kagan
(Democrat - Minnesota) 06/30/10
"I think we established very convincingly during the Sotomayor hearings that there is such a thing as judicial activism. There is such a thing as legislating from the bench. And it is practiced repeatedly by the Roberts Court, where it has cut in only one direction: in favor of powerful corporate interests, and against the rights of individual Americans. ...Minnesota has more wetlands than all but three states. And yet in a case called Rapanos, the Court cut countless streams and wetlands out of the Clean Water Act—even though they'd been covered for up to 30 years."

Sen. Klobuchar Opening Statement: Confirmation Hearing for Elena Kagan
(Democrat - Minnesota) 06/28/10
In the Exxon-Valdez case, the Justices should have thought "about the real-world impacts of slashing the damages that the jury had awarded to the 32,000 fisherman whose livelihoods were tragically impacted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989."

Sen. Cardin Opening Statement: Confirmation Hearing for Elena Kagan
(Democrat - Maryland) 06/28/10
"If you have children, if you work for a living, if you are a woman, if you vote, if you care about the air we breathe or the water we drink, you need to pay close attention to this confirmation hearing and the work of the Supreme Court. ...Rapanos also was a step backwards, this time for the environment by reducing protection for wetlands under the Clean Water Act. If you are like the rest of us and wonder if BP will be held fully accountable for the economic and environmental devastation brought on by the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, you will be equally alarmed by the Supreme Court's decision in Exxon v. Baker which imposed limits on damages that can be recovered in environmental disasters. Time and time again, by the narrowest of margins, this activist court has sided with big businesses over Main Street America wiping away protections set in place by years of legal precedent and congressional action."

Sen. Leahy Opening Statement: Confirmation Hearing of Elena Kagan
(Democrat - Vermont) 06/28/10
"When we discuss the Constitution's commerce clause or spending power, we are talking about congressional authority to pass laws to ensure protection of our communities from natural and man-made disasters, to encourage clean air and water, to provide health care for all Americans, to ensure safe food and drugs, to protect equal rights, to enforce safe workplaces and to provide a safety net for seniors. This hearing is, accordingly, about the fundamental freedoms of all Americans."