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Nomination of Amy Coney Barrett

Floor Speech

Date: Oct. 25, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LANKFORD. Mr. President, for the past several years, I have heard some pretty remarkable stories from the other side of the aisle and from the national media.

We heard from an Atlantic article that the President called servicemembers killed in action ``losers.'' It was spread all over the place until it was refuted flatly by 14 different officials who were on the trip.

We heard claims that the Trump administration has deployed Federal troops to Portland, and they were taking over the streets of Portland, until leadership of ICE and of DHS came to Congress and reported what actually happened, starting with, there were no Federal troops that went. There was Federal law enforcement there, but it is because it is a Federal building that was under attack. And they weren't just aimlessly roaming the streets arresting people, although they did arrest the people who threw Molotov cocktails at the building.

I have heard that the post office cannot handle the increased volume of mail, and the Trump administration is intentionally trying to slow down the post office so mail can't come in, saying with frantic, breathless voices: It could be 100 million ballots coming in the mail. Can the post office handle it? Until you find out that 2 weeks before Christmas last year, the post office handled 2.5 billion pieces of first class mail just that 1 week--certainly they can handle 100 million ballots coming in over a month.

I heard last summer that the President had taken away toothbrushes from children at the border--until a group of us were actually at the border the very next week and went into that exact facility saying there are no toothbrushes there available for the children and saw a storeroom full of toiletries--yes, including toothbrushes.

I read the story and followed up with the ICE leadership about Muslims in our ICE detention facilities being forced to eat pork-- tormenting them by feeding them pork, against their faith--until we actually followed up on the facts of it and found that story was completely false.

It seems every day--sometimes multiple times a day--there is a new accusation that comes out to attack the Trump administration and to challenge them on every angle of every direction you can possibly do it.

And then for the Presiding Officer--you know this full well because I sat in that same chair for 2 hours last night during our 30 hours of continuous debate, following Senate rules to conclude a confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice, and I was quite amazed at some of the things I heard while I sat in the chair.

I heard things like, well, Amy Coney Barrett should have never even come out of the Judiciary because Democrats boycotted coming, actually, to the hearing. If they don't come to the hearing, the nominee cannot come out; the Republicans have broken the rules.

In fact, some of my colleagues went dangerously close to say: Because they broke that rule, we are going to break the next rule and pack the Court. Except they leave out one little thing: That has happened multiple times before. They did follow the rules. There wasn't a breaking of the rule in the committee. In fact, one of the Members speaking last night even said so far as, they broke the rules, except the Parliamentarian ruled them in order. And so the Parliamentarian was wrong as well.

At least seven times since 2006--most recently in 2014 when Democratic Chairman Leahy sent a circuit court judge and two district judges to the floor, out of committee, when only one member of the minority was present--not fulfilling ``the rule.''

Republicans did not break the rule as they came out of committee with Amy Coney Barrett.

I heard over and over again that there has never been a time like this that anyone has brought a Supreme Court nominee during an election year like this--except when you actually go back and look at the history, which I have recounted on this floor before, and multiple of my colleagues have recounted the actual history. But then last night I heard once again: Even Abraham Lincoln, the month before the election, could have put in a nominee for the Supreme Court, and he chose not to, to wait for the election. All I could do was sit with my mask-covered face in the presiding chair and smile and think about the Washington Post article that came out just a few weeks ago when Senator Harris gave the same lesson about Abraham Lincoln and the Supreme Court. The Washington Post, the day after, wrote an article titled ``Kamala Harris's `little history lesson' about Lincoln's Supreme Court vacancy wasn't exactly true.''

No, Abraham Lincoln didn't hold back and say: I will wait until after the election. That is not how that occurred. The Senate was not even in session during that time period. And Abraham Lincoln, in the middle of the Civil War, was waiting it out, trying to keep his fractured Republican coalition together and not fracture it by naming someone. In fact, he shrewdly ended up naming one of his opponents in the Republican Party as the nominee who would come after he was reelected.

It is interesting to me how things seem to get twisted around in some of this debate. I heard last night during the debate time that Amy Coney Barrett refused to answer the questions--the most basic questions about what she believes about things. The shocking thing is, Amy Coney Barrett did the exact same thing that Ruth Bader Ginsburg did during her nomination and that every nominee has said. They said: I am a judge. I can't tell you how I am going to rule on it because it has to be based on the facts of the case. It not something I can just make up on the spot.

In fact, this is what was quoted from Justice Ginsburg when she was Judge Ginsburg at the time and going through the nomination process. This is from Judge Ginsburg:

I come to this proceeding to be judged as a judge, not as an advocate. Because I am and hope to continue to be a judge, it would be wrong for me to say or to preview in this legislative chamber how I would cast my vote on questions the Supreme Court may be called upon to decide. Were I to rehearse here what I would say and how I would reason on such questions, I would act injudiciously.

Judges in our system are bound to decide concrete cases, not abstract issues. Each case comes to the court based on particular facts and its decision should turn on those facts and the governing law, stated and explained in light of the particular arguments the parties or their representatives present. A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints, for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case, it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.

For some reason Justice Ginsburg was celebrated by the left for not saying how she would rule, but Amy Coney Barrett has been shown disdain for saying she is not telling exactly how she will rule on every single issue.

The most painful thing I heard last night when I was in the Chair and that I have heard over and over again in the dialogue has been a sad, personal destruction and deception, pushing Amy Coney Barrett over and over again as a closet racist and segregationist. I am disappointed that even this candidate is being challenged as a racist, quiet segregationist. It is the firebomb thrown into the middle of a dialogue.

Over and over again, she was challenged by saying what would she do with Brown v. Board of Education, as if quietly she is a segregationist.

Over and over again, her concept on originalism was pushed, and here is how it was framed on the debate on this floor: She is an originalist. That means she is backward-looking. That means she is supportive of those White men who supported slavery and would not allow women to be able to vote because, in their perspective, that is what an originalist is. They want to go back to slavery and segregation and removing the rights of women to vote--even saying last night that originalists go back to the time of child labor.

It is a smear. It is a personal attack, and it is an act of desperation. It is an attempt to terrify the American people that this mother of seven is to be feared because she will take away your healthcare; she will take away your rights; she will remove every option that protects the rights of individuals in a free society; and, as was stated last night, she is afraid of ``we the people.''

We have a responsibility in this body to set the tone for the debate. We disagree on things strongly, and so do the American people. But this should not be a place of smears and personal attacks and disdain for each other and for labeling people--something that if we were to sit down face-to-face and I were to ask the Members on the other side of this Chamber ``Do you really think that Judge Barrett is a segregationist?'' I have every confidence that Members on the other side would say ``No, but it plays well to the base.''

What have we become?

Future Justice Barrett, now Judge Barrett, was labeled over and over again as a person who doesn't have her own mind, who is running big- dollar donors from the Federalist Society and is just a puppet of the right, someone who actually was labeled to be groomed by the right for this position, as if that judge has not studied, worked, and prepared her entire life to serve.

She has her own mind. She is well prepared. She is eminently qualified, and she is not a secret racist segregationist coming to take away healthcare from Americans. She is a judge who has heard 600 cases, graduated first in her law school class, taught law for 15 years at Notre Dame University, is well prepared, and, yes, does have this originalist view of the Constitution, meaning you can't just look at it and make it say what you want to. People on this floor can try to put words in her mouth which she has not said, as I heard over and over again, like her desire is to suppress voters. You cannot change how well prepared she is for this task and this moment.

I am grateful that America continues to produce great leaders and great individuals who work hard in their personal lives, who study and prepare themselves to be ready to do whatever God calls them to do, and who are intently focused on serving their fellow Americans in the best way they possibly can.

We ask of Justices one thing--at least I do: Follow the law. It seems my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are terrified that someone may just come follow the law and that policy arguments may have to be debated back in Congress again. Well, I hope that is true because there are policy arguments we need to resolve as a country, but let's resolve them in this Chamber, not in the one across the street. The one across the street, let's keep it nonpolitical, focus on just helping Americans follow the law.

I look forward to voting for Amy Coney Barrett later on tonight, and I look forward to the day when false accusations are seen for what they really are. Let's do the right thing, and let's do it the right way.