Sen. Leahy: Statement On the Nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch To The Supreme Court Of The United States
(Democrat - Vermont)
“In light of the unconstitutional actions of our new President in just his first week, the Senate owes the American people a thorough and unsparing examination of this nomination. I had hoped that President Trump would work in a bipartisan way to pick a mainstream nominee like Merrick Garland and bring the country together. Instead, he outsourced this process to far-right interest groups. This is no way to treat a co-equal branch of government, or to protect the independence of our Federal judiciary.
“Before Senate Republicans waged the unprecedented blockade of Chief Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court last year, the Senate took seriously its constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on nominees to the highest court in the land. But Republicans abdicated the Senate’s constitutional role by choosing politically-charged obstruction, so that a president who lost the popular vote could nominate extreme candidates to the Supreme Court.
“President Trump said he would appoint justices who would overturn 40 years of jurisprudence established in Roe v. Wade. Judge Gorsuch has shown a willingness to limit women’s access to health care that suggests the President is making good on that promise. At his confirmation hearing in 2006, Judge Gorsuch stated, ‘Precedent is to be respected and honored,’ and he said it is ‘unacceptable’ for a judge to try to impose “his own personal views, his politics, [or] his personal preferences.’ Yet last year he tried to do just that, calling for important precedent to be overturned because it does not align with his personal philosophy. From my initial review of his record, I question whether Judge Gorsuch meets the high standard set by Merrick Garland. And with the ideological litmus test that President Trump has applied in making this selection, the American people are justified to wonder whether Judge Gorsuch can truly be an independent justice. I intend to ask Judge Gorsuch about these and other important issues in the coming months.”
R.I. Sen. Reed reiterates opposition to Sessions, Trump's nominee for attorney general
(Democrat - Rhode Island)
"On a personal and professional level, I respect Senator Sessions,'' Reed, D-R.I., said Tuesday. "We have very different views, but there is no denying he has an extensive legal background. "However, the Attorney General is our nation's chief law enforcement officer. Their job is to defend the Constitution and be an independent voice within the administration. Senator Sessions has not demonstrated sufficient willingness to push back against President Trump's unconstitutional executive overreach,'' said Reed,... "Our next Attorney General should be a champion for all Americans' civil rights and civil liberties. They should instill confidence in our judiciary and our elections, and be an impartial arbiter of the due process that is so critical to the rule of law. Therefore, I cannot support Senator Sessions' nomination to be Attorney General."
Sen. Leahy Announces He Will OPPOSE Sessions Nomination For A.G.; “I have serious doubts that Senator Sessions would be an independent Attorney General.”
(Democrat - Vermont)
“The Attorney General must faithfully serve all Americans. After carefully reviewing Senator Sessions’ extensive record, I am not convinced that he meets that threshold standard. So I must oppose this nomination,” Leahy said. ... Leahy sent to Sessions additional written questions about his views on the Violence Against Women Act, anti-Muslim extremist groups, Russia’s interference with the presidential election, ethics concerns with the new Trump administration. Leahy also specifically asked Sessions about his role in the drafting of President Trump’s executive orders to militarize the southern border and ban refugees from entering the country. Sessions has failed to respond to these questions.
“I have serious doubts that Senator Sessions would be an independent Attorney General. There have been months of media coverage about President Trump’s many conflicts of interest and the constitutional concerns they present. Yet Senator Sessions evaded questions on this topic by claiming that he has ‘not studied the issue.’ He has failed to provide answers to many of my written questions, including questions regarding his involvement in the drafting of the anti-Muslim executive order that has already disrupted lives and our national security,” Leahy said.
He concluded: “Now, more than ever, we need an independent Attorney General—one who is committed to standing up for the constitutional and statutory rights of the disenfranchised. Unfortunately I do not believe this describes Senator Sessions. For these reasons, I am not confident that Senator Sessions would be an Attorney General for all Americans. I must oppose this nomination.”
Sen. Carper Announces Opposition to Jeff Sessions Nomination
(Democrat - Delaware)
“Our nation’s top law enforcement official must defend the rights of all Americans, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from. Over the past several weeks, overwhelmingly, hundreds of Delawareans from Wilmington to Dover to Rehoboth Beach have told me that Senator Sessions has too divisive a track record to serve all Americans as our next Attorney General. Ultimately, I have come to agree with them.
“Jeff Sessions has been my colleague and friend for sixteen years. While we agree on some issues, in truth, our views on far too many important issues diverge, in some cases markedly. For example, Senator Sessions holds the same hardline views on immigration as President Trump, views that sow fear and division in our communities. He has a lifetime voting record that, on balance, is hostile to our country's landmark clean water and clean air laws. He refuses to accept the science on climate change and has opposed efforts by the EPA to curb harmful carbon pollution from our nation’s power plants.
“At times, he has demonstrated hostility to landmark civil rights laws too, such as the Voting Rights Act, and has opposed legal protections for LGBT Americans. He opposes the right of women to make their own health care decisions in many instances. I believe that too many of his views are just too extreme and too often inconsistent with the Golden Rule for him to lead the Department of Justice at this critical juncture. Thus, I cannot support Senator Sessions to be our next Attorney General.
“Reaching this decision does not bring me joy, but I was raised by my parents and in our church to pray for the wisdom to know what is the right thing to do. And that I have done when faced with this decision. Senator Sessions and I read the same Bible, and in the past have read it together from time to time. When we met in my office last week, we talked of how our faith guides us in our lives. I reminded him of how Matthew 25 tells us of our moral obligation ‘to the least of these’ in our society. Among other things it asks the question, ‘When I was a stranger in your land, did you take me in?’ Sadly, I have concluded that Senator Sessions does not fully share the commitment to that passage and to loving our neighbors as ourselves that I believe our nation’s Attorney General should hold, especially when it comes to providing advice and counsel to a President whose views are as extreme as many of those of Donald Trump.”
Sen. Cardin to Vote Against Senator Jeff Sessions Nomination for Attorney General
(Democrat - Maryland)
“As America’s top lawyer, the Attorney General plays a pivotal role in both protecting the safety and security of our nation and safeguarding the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens. Yet Senator Sessions has opposed voting rights legislation, immigration reform, the Violence Against Women Act, criminal justice and police reform, hate crimes legislation, paycheck fairness, repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and the Ramos and Liu National Blue Alert, among many others. His perspective on what should be settled law and pending legal matters has me gravely concerned. It’s unfair to the hardworking employees of the Department of Justice, who work every day to keep Americans safe from harm and protect Americans’ rights, to have an Attorney General who questions their very mission. I also have serious reservations about how Senator Sessions would advise President Trump on his harmful and cruel executive order targeting Muslims, his plan to force local law enforcement officers to help carry out federal immigration raids, or his proposal to investigate the fiction of ‘voter fraud’ instead of voter suppression and disenfranchisement in the 2016 presidential election. Senator Sessions seeks to turn back the clock on the values we hold dear and I cannot support this nomination.”
Sen. King Announces Support for Tillerson as Secretary of State & Opposition to Sessions as Attorney General
(Independent - Maine)
“I have also met with Senator Sessions, attended his confirmation hearing, and extensively reviewed his record. While I consider Senator Sessions a friend, I am not voting to confirm a friendship. I am voting to confirm the next Attorney General of the United States. And I believe that this individual will need to stand up to the President when they believe he is wrong. While I certainly have concerns with Senator Sessions’ record, ultimately, I am concerned that he will not approach this critical role with the independence that is required, and that, as a result, the President could exercise an unchallenged influence in the affairs of the Justice Department, which must often take objective positions that may be at variance with the views of the Administration. It is never easy to vote against a colleague, and it is not done out of personal dislike or disaffection for him, but out of what I believe is in the best interests of Maine and the nation.”
Sen. Collins: "I am not a proponent of changing the rules of the Senate,"
(Republican - Maine)
Republicans potentially have the power to further change the rules so the minority can't even block a Supreme Court nominee.
However, it takes 51 votes in the Senate to employ the nuclear option. And Republicans may not have the votes. Already one Republican — Susan Collins of Maine — says don't count on her vote.
"I am not a proponent of changing the rules of the Senate," said Collins on Monday evening. "I hope that common sense will prevail and that we will have a normal process for considering this nominee."
Sen. Merkley will object to simple majority vote on Supreme Court nominee
(Democrat - Oregon)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in an interview on Monday morning that he will filibuster any pick that is not Merrick Garland and that the vast majority of his caucus will oppose Trump’s nomination. That means Trump's nominee will need 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate.
“This is a stolen seat. This is the first time a Senate majority has stolen a seat,” Merkley said in an interview. “We will use every lever in our power to stop this.”... Any senator can object to swift approval of a nominee and require a supermajority. Asked directly whether he would do that, Merkley replied: “I will definitely object to a simple majority” vote.
Sen. Bennet Statement Opposing Jeff Sessions Nomination
(Democrat - Colorado)
"The U.S. Attorney General must ensure equal justice under the law, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Jeff Sessions has repeatedly opposed efforts to protect the rights and liberties of all Americans. I cannot support his nomination.
"On a variety of issues, Senator Sessions falls short. He has blocked bipartisan efforts to expand voting rights, protect women from harassment and violence, and reform our criminal justice system. In 2013, when a bipartisan group of senators crafted principled and compassionate comprehensive immigration reform legislation, Senator Sessions was its most outspoken opponent. During that debate, he used fear and falsehoods to derail our best chance in years to fix a broken system.
"This week's executive orders on immigration make clear that Senator Sessions' views will shape the Trump administration's policies. We need a chief law enforcement officer who protects the civil rights of every American, not one who perpetuates fear and undermines our obligation to ensure equal justice under the law."
Sen. Mark Warner Announces Opposition to Sessions for Attorney General
(Democrat - Virginia)
Sen. Mark R. Warner: “I respect Sen. Sessions’ service to Alabama and to the nation, but I cannot support his nomination to serve as U.S. Attorney General.
“Sen. Sessions’ opposition to bipartisan, commonsense policies relating to voting rights, anti-discrimination, domestic violence protections and criminal justice reform, among others, have resulted in thousands of Virginians voicing significant concerns about this nomination. I share their concerns.
“Attorney General is one of the most important positions in a president’s Cabinet, tasked with enforcing laws and protecting the civil rights of all Americans. Sen. Sessions’ long record in opposition to these ideals gives me concern that he is not the right person to serve as Attorney General.”
Sen. Schatz To Oppose Sessions Nomination For Attorney General
(Democrat - Hawaii)
Senator Brian Schatz: “Our next attorney general will face critical challenges that will test our justice system and our values. We will need a leader committed to protecting the rights of every American, regardless of race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation. While I respect him as a colleague, Senator Sessions is the wrong person to serve as attorney general.
“Throughout Senator Sessions’ career, he has been on the wrong side of history. As a U.S. attorney and in the Senate, he failed to protect fundamental civil rights, including the right to vote. When he had the chance to protect equal rights for LGBTQ Americans and help reform a racially biased and outdated sentencing system, he refused to do so. When the Department of Justice worked to end racial discrimination and the use of excessive force by police, he stood in opposition. And when confronted with the reality of the president’s inhumane plan to deport undocumented children who call the United States home, he showed zero empathy.
“Time and time again, when presented with the opportunity to advocate for the central mission of the Justice Department – pursuing equal justice for all – Senator Sessions fell short.
“The Department of Justice needs a leader who can fully commit to protecting democracy and civil rights for all Americans, and build on our country’s foundation as a nation of immigrants. Senator Sessions is not that leader.”
After Senator Sessions Fails To Provide Clear Answers, Senator Leahy Demands Answers From AG Nominee
(Democrat - Vermont)
Senator Patrick Leahy on Wednesday released additional written questions to Senator Jeff Sessions after the Attorney General nominee failed to directly answer Leahy’s questions about his views on the Violence Against Women Act, anti-Muslim extremist groups, Russia’s interference with the presidential election, ethics concerns with the new Trump administration, and other matters.
Today’s follow up comes days after Senator Sessions failed to provide clear answers to written questions, refusing even to say whether he considered VAWA’s constitutionality to be “reasonably defensible.” Sessions’ other responses on whether he would follow established recusal standards as Attorney General raised serious concerns about his independence.
“Our nation’s chief law enforcement officer must be independent and fair. Senator Sessions’ failure to provide direct answers to my written questions raises serious concerns that he would not be an independent Attorney General. The Judiciary Committee must have answers before we consider this important nomination,” Leahy said.
Prepared Statement, Sen. Grassley, Chairman, Judiciary Committee on Sessions Attorney General nomination
(Republican - Iowa)
"I look forward to reporting his nomination out of Committee next week.
There will be plenty of time to debate his nomination next week. I just wanted to note that we held a full and fair hearing for Senator Sessions two weeks ago.
The first day of our hearing lasted from 9:30 in the morning until nearly 8:00 at night so that everyone had ample time to ask questions. I appreciate everyone’s cooperation.
We allowed more time for Members to submit questions for the record than the Committee did for Attorney General Holder. Members submitted those questions and we’ve received Senator Sessions’ answers."
Sen. Schumer Statement On Meeting With President Trump To Discuss Supreme Court
(Democrat - New York)
“As I’ve said many times, I believe the President should pick a mainstream nominee who could earn bipartisan support for the vacant Supreme Court seat. I reiterated that view in our meeting today, and told him that Senate Democrats would fight any nominee that was outside of the mainstream.”
Sen. Feinstein Requests Delay on Sessions Vote, Links Nomination to Weekend Marches
(Democrat - California)
"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. Sheldon Whitehouse Announces Opposition to Sessions Nomination
(Democrat - Rhode Island)
“I have reviewed Senator Sessions’s career as an attorney and in public office, as well as his testimony before the Judiciary Committee. I have reflected on my time as an Attorney General and U.S. Attorney in Rhode Island, where my job was to enforce the law faithfully with compassion and independence. I have also listened closely to serious concerns from Rhode Islanders, who have made it plain that they fear what Jeff Sessions could do as head of the Justice Department. For every constituent of mine who has expressed support of his nomination, fifteen have expressed opposition.
“Senator Sessions’s record is clear. He has fought against fixing our immigration system to keep millions of vital workers in our economy and protect families from being torn apart. He abandoned even his fellow Republicans to vote against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. He has, on numerous occasions, used racially charged or downright offensive rhetoric to belittle and marginalize broad groups of Americans, including Rhode Island’s wonderful Dominican community. He has demonstrated open hostility for bedrock civil rights laws, and failed repeatedly to distance himself from hate groups that hold him up as a champion of their values. In my questioning of him during his confirmation hearing, Senator Sessions cast doubt on whether someone with religious views that differ from his can understand the truth. The job demands and Rhode Islanders expect our Attorney General to be a fierce defender of our constitutional rights and equal justice under law. Jeff Sessions’s record casts such serious doubt on whether he can perform that role that I cannot support his nomination.”
Sen. McCaskill troubled by Sessions voting record & decisions he might make as AG
(Democrat - Missouri)
[D]uring a Monday morning interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. ...
McCaskill says she hasn’t decided whether or not she’ll support him, but is troubled by his voting record. During the MSNBC interview she said, based on that record, she’s concerned over decisions Sessions might make as the nation’s chief prosecutor.
“It is not as simple as saying ‘I’m going to enforce the law’. Discretion is the power of a prosecutor. They don’t call 911 on crimes. The Attorney General gets to decide where they use their resources. And the fact that Jeff Sessions would be exercising that discretion worries me a great deal.”
Sen. Schumer vows opposition to any 'out of the mainstream' Supreme Court pick
(Democrat - New York)
"If the nominee is out of the mainstream, we will do our best to keep the seat open," Schumer, D-New York, told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" of the Supreme Court vacancy .... "I'm hopeful that President Trump may nominate someone who is mainstream and could get bipartisan support," Schumer said. "But if they don't, yes, we will fight it tooth and nail, as long as we have to."
Sen. McConnell won't rule out nuclear option for Supreme Court nominee
(Republican - Kentucky)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Sunday refused to rule out the possibility of invoking the so-called "nuclear option" when confirming the next Supreme Court justice, answering repeated inquiries by expressing confidence on Sunday that President Trump's nominee will get confirmed.... "Let me just say, I'm confident we'll get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed," McConnell said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." "I expect an outstanding nominee sometime soon."... "I think it's noteworthy to look at how the Republican minority handled Bill Clinton the first, in his first administration. Both of his first two nominees, Ginsburg and Breyer, no filibuster," McConnell said. "Obama, in his first term, to go, no filibuster. We think our nominee ought to be treated the same way."
Sen. Flake on bid to split Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
(Republican - Arizona)
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said he’s planning to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to split up the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals .... “With regard to the court, it’s just access to justice,” Flake said. “Its docket is more than twice as big as the next biggest circuit. This has been a long time coming, and hopefully we can make some progress finally.”
Flake’s office said the bill will be similar to the legislation he introduced a year ago to establish an additional U.S. circuit court — composed of Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Idaho and Alaska — to relieve what he said at the time is an “oversized and overworked” 9th U.S. Circuit.
Sen. Hatch on proposed split of Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
(Republican - Utah)
Not all Republicans sound optimistic about the chances for success.
“I’m all for that if he can get it done,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said when asked about splitting the 9th Circuit.
“The California people will all be against it, and there will be a lot of others against it, but I think it’d be a wise thing because [the court’s] too big,” he said.
Sen. Blumenthal on Sen. Flake proposal to split Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
(Democrat - Connecticut)
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a former state attorney general, said he’d want to closely scrutinize Flake’s proposal.
“The problem has always been that is has a very large and somewhat unwieldy geographic area and caseload, so the question is whether there’s an effective way to deal with those appeals,” he said. “I’d have to see those details.”
Sen. Gardner Reopens Committee to Fill Colorado Judicial Vacancy
(Republican - Colorado)
In November 2015, Gardner recommended four potential nominees the White House. While President Obama nominated one of Gardner’s recommendations, the nominee was not confirmed.
“The search to fill the Colorado judgeship began nearly a year prior to the vacancy in order to ensure that an already busy court is not understaffed,” said Gardner. “It is critical that the process to fill the vacancy remains thorough and expeditious. That is why I have requested the Judicial Evaluation Committee provide recommendations within 30 days so that I can send potential nominees to President-elect Trump as soon as possible.”
Sen. Van Hollen [opposes Sen. Sessions Attorney General nomination]
(Democrat - Maryland)
"The Attorney General holds a very special position in our democracy, serving as a champion for the people and a defender of those whose only power lies in their rights under the law and in our Constitution. Nominees must be judged based on whether their life's work demonstrates a commitment to meeting the mission of the office they are asked to lead. The Latin motto on the Department of Justice's seal refers to the Attorney General as the one ‘who prosecutes on behalf of justice.’ The Attorney General must be the people’s lawyer and be zealous in the pursuit of justice for all Americans. After reviewing the record of Senator Sessions, I am not convinced that he will be a vigorous defender of the rights of all Americans, especially those who have fallen victim to the powerful or the status quo.
Long before I considered running for elected office myself, I had the honor of working for Senator Mac Mathias of Maryland. In 1986, despite being a member of the Republican Party, Senator Mathias was one of the deciding votes against then U.S. Attorney Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship.
Since then, Senator Sessions’ statements and actions have done little to reassure Americans. On the contrary, his record of words and deeds -- with respect to civil rights, voting rights, women's rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of individuals with disabilities -- reveal that he too often sides with the powerful and the status quo rather than standing up for justice for all. We need an Attorney General who will apply the law to make more real the promise of equal rights and equal justice in America, and the record to date indicates that Senator Sessions fails to meet that important test.
In addition, I am deeply troubled by the positions Senator Sessions has taken on issues related to immigration reform and I am not persuaded that he would be an independent check on an incoming President who has made clear that he is prepared to trample the rights of immigrants and religious minorities.
For all these reasons, while I respect Senator Sessions' record of service to his state in the Senate for 20 years, I do not believe he should serve as our next Attorney General."