Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Boxer Calls For Information On Roberts Nomination

Senator Asks: What Are They Hiding?

September 13, 2005

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) gave the following speech last night on the Senate floor regarding the Roberts nomination:

Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Maryland for her leadership in reaching out to the people of this country, asking them to send in their questions for Judge Roberts. As she noted, 25,000 individuals wrote in questions and we received a total of 40,000 questions. It shows the American people have a lot at stake. This is a serious time for our country, and a very important nomination. We certainly know that.

Most Americans understand that the Court plays a huge role in defending our rights and freedoms, and now Judge Roberts has been nominated to be the Chief Justice of the United States. Although some will say it makes no difference, it makes a big difference. The Chief Justice runs the Court, sets its tone, assigns responsibility for writing its decisions, has a certain amount of cachet to speak for the Court, and so on.

The Judiciary Committee began its hearings today on Judge Roberts. This is a vital part of the advice and consent role of the Senate. Before we vote, it is every Senator's duty to find out if Judge Roberts will uphold or undermine our fundamental freedoms, the freedoms that essentially define us as Americans. It is our duty to find out if Judge Roberts will fulfill the promise etched above the Court itself: Equal justice under the law -- not justice only for the powerful, but equal justice for all. And when I say we have a duty, I am talking about our responsibility as Senators to act on behalf of we the American people.

That is why the Democratic women, under Senator Mikulski's leadership, created the AskRoberts Web site. Americans submitted 40,000 questions about a broad range of issues, including privacy, reproductive health, civil rights, women’s rights, and the environment. One individual posed this question to Judge Roberts: In your opinion, why would the White House refuse to turn over public records from your time as Deputy Solicitor General? What is there to hide?

What is there to hide? It is a very important question. Senators on both sides of the aisle should be asking that question. Before we confirm Judge Roberts to a lifetime appointment as Chief Justice, we need to know everything possible about his views and philosophy. This isn't because it is interesting, because I am sure it would be interesting. Judge Roberts is a very bright and interesting man. But it is because every American's rights and freedoms hang in the balance. Judge Roberts has a very thin record on the bench. Therefore, his writings and statements, when he worked for the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration, become very important.

We know that in his position working for Kenneth Starr, Mr. Roberts played a very important role. He was a top decision maker in the Solicitor General's Office. He appeared before the Supreme Court and, by his own admission, made the final determination of which cases to appeal in hundreds of circumstances. It is not as if we haven't gotten information like this before. We did so during the confirmation hearings for Judge Bork and Justice Rehnquist.

That is why Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Senator Leahy, and the Democratic leadership, under the leadership of Senator Reid, and the Democratic women, under the leadership of Senator Mikulski, and the entire Democratic caucus have written letter after letter to Attorney General Gonzales demanding these documents be released.

We are talking about a very narrow request -- only 16 cases -- not a broad request for all records. What are these cases we are asking about? They include three about reproductive health, five about discrimination and civil rights, and three about the environment. These are the very issues Americans told us they wanted Roberts to answer questions about when they wrote to our web site.

In poll after poll, the American people are saying that Judge Roberts has to tell us what he believes, and we deserve to have this information. Everyone agrees that Judge Roberts is extremely qualified and very personable. But we need to know about his views and philosophy because, if confirmed, the cases he would decide will impact the daily lives of all Americans.

I believe the American people want transparency and openness in this process. This should not be some hide-and-seek, catch-me-if-you-can deal. This is about someone who could sit on the Court for 30 years, or more. This is someone who is going to influence the lives of our grandchildren and perhaps even our great grandchildren.

In addition to getting the information on these cases, Judge Roberts also must answer questions, and I hope he is going to do that. I know a couple of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle today seemed to be counseling him not to answer questions. One of them cited Judge Ginsburg, and said she drew the line by refusing to answer questions.

Let me tell you what Judge Ginsburg said at her hearing when she was asked about Roe v. Wade and a woman’s reproduction freedom. She said: “It's a decision she must make for herself. And when Government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human.”

That is a quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And it is certainly at odds with all that Senator Hatch and others are saying about how Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t answer questions about key legal issues. No. 1, her writings on this and other topics were extensive. Then at the hearing, she said clearly that when the Government takes control -- I am going to read it again:

“When Government controls that decision, a woman is being treated as less than a fully adult human.”

I want to know whether Judge Roberts agrees with that. He will have a chance to express that view and also his view about the role of Congress in protecting our families and communities. Take, for example, the violence against women. Part of that act, written by Joe Biden and Orrin Hatch -- and I worked with Senator Biden for years on that -- part of that law was thrown out. We want to know how Judge Roberts feels about whether we in the Senate can protect the women of our country, can protect the families of our country, can protect those who perhaps cannot speak for themselves.

We need to know if Judge Roberts thinks the right to privacy is a fundamental right. We know he wrote about it as the so-called right of privacy.

If I referred to your spouse as your "so-called spouse," that would be an insult, wouldn't it? If I referred to your right to vote as your "so-called right to vote," my constituency would be very upset with me because the right to vote is not a so-called right. So when you say something is a so-called right, it raises a lot of questions about how you feel about it.

We also need to know why Judge Roberts argued before the Supreme Court and on national TV that our Federal courts and marshals had no role in stopping clinic violence when women were being threatened and intimidated at family planning clinics all over the country.

It is time for Judge Roberts to say what he really thinks – on privacy, on gender discrimination, on civil rights, on the environment. On the appellate court, he wrote an opinion that raises questions about whether he would find the endangered species act constitutional. Does he think it is our right in the Congress to pass environmental laws that protect all Americans?

As Senator Mikulski said, the role of the women Senators is very important. Women across America are counting on us to stand up, to ask the questions, and to get the answers. When we vote on this nomination, it must be an informed vote either yes because we believe he will protect our rights and freedoms or no because we have not been convinced.


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