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Nomination of Amy Coney Barrett

Floor Speech

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


Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, it is my honor to speak on the floor about this nomination, which I think is historic in many facets and all positive from my point of view.

We have before the committee the nomination of Judge Barrett, who currently sits on the Seventh Judicial Circuit. She is one of the most impressive people I have ever met. Two days of hearings; answering every question thrown to her with grace and judicial demeanor. I think it should be the gold standard for every other nominee.

I want to thank my staff, beginning with Lee Holmes, the director. Lee has done such a great job on the Judiciary Committee and has done a lot of things--some contentious and some not. I want to thank Lee for shepherding this nomination and the fine work he has done.

Mike Fragoso--Mike, I got your first name right anyway. He is just outstanding. He has done a terrific job.

The permanent nominations unit for the Judiciary Committee includes Lauren Mehler, Raija Churchill, Tim Rodriguez, Watson Horner, and Akhil R-A-J-A-S-E-K-A-R--I don't want to butcher your name. They all worked incredibly hard for 135 article III judges, not just this one.

In addition, Lucas Croslow joined my staff to lead the team of special counsels assisting with the Barrett nomination. That included Sidd Dadhich, D-A-D-H-I-C-H, Joe Falvey, Abby Hollenstein, Eric Palmer, and Robert Smith. They went through the entire record presented by Judge Barrett to make sure we would be prepared for the confirmation process.

The law clerks were Matt Simpson, Emily Hall, Megan Cairn, and Peter Singhal. I would like to thank the Judiciary Committee's press secretary, Taylor Reidy. They did a great job, along with George Hartmann, as well as our deputy staff director, Joe Keeley.

The bottom line is, all of them worked really hard. They made history. They should be proud and tell their grandkids about all this. Well done.

To my Democratic colleagues, I know you didn't like what we did, but I do appreciate the way you conducted yourselves in the hearing. It wasn't a circus. I think you challenged the judge appropriately during your time. We had 4 days of hearings. We heard from a variety of people about Judge Barrett.

In terms of the process, it was well within what we have done in the past. In every Judiciary Committee markup regarding a Supreme Court Justice, we have done the same thing. The first day is opening statements, then 2 days of questions, and the final day is input from outside groups. That is what we were able to do here. So she went through the process like every other nominee since I have been here.

But let me just say this to my Democratic colleagues. It is not about the process. You will find ways to make sure that most of you can't vote for anybody we nominate. It really does break my heart.

With Roberts, 78 to 22, that was sort of the norm. I think Alito got 96 and Ginsburg got 97. Maybe I got the numbers right. I can't remember who got what, but one got 96 and one got 97. It used to not be this way. It used to be different.

We looked at the qualifications and said: OK, you are good to go. You are a person of integrity. You are smart. You are well rounded. You are knowledgeable in the law. You may have a different philosophy than I have, but we understand elections matter. And everybody accepted the election outcome. Those days are over, absolutely completely over and destroyed. There is nobody any Republican President can ever nominate, I think, who is not going to face a hard time. That is too bad. That is the way it is.

Alito, 58 to 42--Judge Alito was well known on our side of the aisle. He was the kind of person you would be looking at to promote to the Supreme Court. President Bush nominated him. Well within the mainstream. Roberts and Alito were well known in the conservative world, being ver bright court of appeals judges whom any Republican President would be looking at to put on the Court if they ever had an opportunity. There is no difference between Alito and Roberts, but Alito went through hell. But he made it, and he got 58 votes.

So then along comes President Obama. He gets two picks--Sotomayor, 68 votes to 31. I think she deserved more, but 68 is pretty darn good. I was glad to vote for her. I saw that she was qualified. Then we had Elena Kagan, 63 votes. You can see the trend here. Both of them were Obama nominees, 68 and 63, and I thought Elena Kagan was highly qualified. She had a different judicial philosophy. She was a dean of the law school at Harvard but worked for the Solicitor General's Office. Both of them had been with the liberal side of the Court most every case but not all. I am not surprised the way they decided cases. I think they are tremendously well-qualified women and should be sitting on the Court. That is exactly who you would expect a Democratic President to pick--Sotomayor and Kagan.

So now we come back. Trump wins. Nobody thought he would win, including me. I voted for somebody in 2016 I wouldn't know if he walked through the door--Evan McMullin. I think I met him once. I had my challenge for President Trump during the 2016 primary. He beat me like a drum. I accepted my defeat. I have been trying to help him ever since, and I think he has done a really good job of sending to the Senate highly qualified judges. He has gotten input from a lot of different people--the Federalist Society, you name it--a lot of different people.

Gorsuch and Kavanaugh had one thing in common: They were in my top three recommendations. Any Republican President looking to nominate somebody to the Supreme Court would be looking at Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. These are not exotic picks. They are in the mold of Sotomayor and Kagan in terms of qualifications.

So what happened? Gorsuch was the first attempt at a partisan filibuster. We had three votes to get 60, and we couldn't, so we changed the rules for the Supreme Court like they changed the rules in 2013 for the district court and court of appeals. If we had not, Gorsuch wouldn't be on the Court. And to say he is not qualified is a joke. It is an insult to him and says more about you than it does Judge Gorsuch. If you can't see he is qualified, you are blinded by your hatred of Trump. So he made it, but we had to change the rules. We hated to do it but had to do it because in any other time, Gorsuch would have gotten the same type votes as Roberts because he is just highly qualified.

Then comes along Kavanaugh. Nothing about process there. There was no process argument. Right at the very end, the last day of the hearing when we thought it was all over, you give us a letter that you had for weeks, an allegation against the judge. It would have been nice to share it with him so he could tell his side of the story, but you chose not to do that. You had it precooked with the press outlets, and everything blew up.

So all of us on the committee had to decide what to do. I sat down with Senator Flake and Senator Collins, and we felt like the allegations had to be heard. They are made. I know a lot of people on our side thought it was unfair, dirty pool, but we had the opportunity to have the hearing, and the rest is history. It was high drama.

All I can say is that something happened to the person who accused Judge Kavanaugh, but I don't believe Judge Kavanaugh had anything to do with it. This was a party in high school. Ms. Ford couldn't remember where it was and who was there. The people who were said to have been there said they don't remember anything like it happened.

Judge Kavanaugh hasn't lived a life like what was being described. He was accused by four or five people. Three of them actually made it up. I hope some of them go to jail for lying to the committee and the country. They were trying to make him a rapist and drugging women in high school, and what was his annual all about? It was the most sickening episode in my time in the Senate. They were hell-bent on destroying this guy's life based on a bunch of manufactured lies and evidence that wouldn't get you out of the batter's box in any court of law in the land.

And here we are, 50 to 48. What I saw there was a turning point for me. We cannot continue to do this. You are going to drive good people away. And I am hoping that the Barrett hearings, which were far more civil and far more traditional, will be a turning point because I don't know who the next President will be, but there will be an opening, I am sure, on the Court. I am hoping that the next hearing is more like Barrett's and less like Kavanaugh's, no matter who wins.

Now, Barrett. I understand the concern about the process. This is the latest we have ever confirmed somebody. You heard all the arguments about when the President is of one party and the Senate of a different party; you have had one confirmation in 100-some years; that most of the time, when the President is of the same party as the Senate, they go through. I understand.

The bottom line is, we gave her the same type hearing that Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh had. My Democratic colleagues showed up at the hearing, they participated, they pushed her hard, but I don't think they went across the line. They decided not to show up for markup. I hate that, but that is the way it is.

I would like to spend a few minutes talking about the person who is going onto the Court in about an hour.

If you are looking for somebody a Republican would be picking, regardless of the process, it would be Judge Barrett. She would be on anybody's list.

I listened to Senator Durbin, who is a good friend, and we will work on whatever comes our way after the election. I find that he is somebody you can work on hard things like immigration with. But his description of Judge Barrett simply doesn't pass scrutiny.

He is trying to make a character of this person that doesn't exist. There is nothing exotic about Judge Barrett. She is very mainstream in our world. All I can say is that after 2 days of hearings, the American people, by 51 percent--it is pretty hard to figure that in this country, you get 51 percent agreement on anything--felt like she should be going onto the Court.

Here is what Dean O'Hara said, the dean of Notre Dame Law School, who hired Amy Barrett to be a professor at Notre Dame:

I have only communicated with this august committee on two occasions. The first was ten years ago when I wrote a strong letter in support of now-Justice Elena Kagan, whose term as dean of Harvard Law School overlapped with my own. The second is today introducing and endorsing Amy Coney Barrett in equally strong terms. Some might find these recommendations to be in juxtaposition, but I find them entirely consistent.

To anybody wondering about Judge Barrett, I would highly recommend that you look at the ABA's recommendations and the process they used to find her ``well qualified.'' Not one person uttered a negative word about her character, according to the ABA. Someone said to the ABA: The myth is real. She is a staggering academic mind. She is incredibly honest and forthright. She is exactly who you think she is. Nothing about her is fake. She is good, she is decent, she is selfless, and she is sincere. She is an exemplar of living an integrated life.

The Standing Committee would have been hard-pressed to come up with any conclusion other than that Judge Barrett has demonstrated professional competence that is exceptional. Then they had a committee to look at her writings--all of her writings. They accepted input from 944 people she has interacted with in her professional life. Not one negative comment.

So forget about what politicians say about Judge Barrett. Forget about what people who don't recognize President Trump as being a legitimate President say about Judge Barrett. Forget about what I say if you want to. Look at what people who worked with her said, who are in the law business, who know her individually and have worked with her as a judge, as a professor, and they conclude without any doubt that she is one of the most gifted people to ever be nominated to the Supreme Court.

There is nothing exotic about Judge Barrett. She is going onto the Court in about an hour. That is exactly where she needs to be. She is the type of person who has lived a life worthy of being nominated. She is the type of person who is worthy of receiving a large vote in the Senate, but she won't get it.

She is not going to get one Democratic vote. Write her out of the process if you want to. That is fine. But what about the others? All I can say is that we are going to have an election here in about a week, and whatever happens, I am going to acknowledge the winner when it is all said and done.

It may go to the Supreme Court. I don't know. But there will be a day that we know who won, and I am going to accept those results, and I am going to do with the next President what I have tried to do with this one and every other one--try to find a way forward on things that are hard to keep the country moving forward.

To the majority leader and the minority leader, it is a tough place around here now. This, too, shall pass. But this is about Judge Barrett. This is about her time, her moment. She has done everything you would expect of her. She has exceeded every challenge put in her way. She has impressed everybody she has worked with. She has impressed the country. She is going onto the Court because that is where she deserves to be.

As to us in the Senate, maybe down the road we can get back to the way we used to be. I don't know. But I do know this. There is nothing exotic about Judge Barrett. She is as mainstream as it gets from our side of the aisle.

When it comes to people outside of politics looking at her, it was universal: ``highly qualified,'' ``highly competent,'' ``ready to serve this country as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.''

My last thought: It is hard to be a conservative person of color. That is a very difficult road to hoe in modern American politics. My good friend Tim Scott is a great voice for conservatism. And Tim--a lot of things were said about Tim that were said about nobody else on our side of the aisle. He is tough. He can handle it. The same for conservative women.

Judge Barrett did not abandon her faith. She embraces it. But she said: I embrace my faith. But as a judge, it will not be the rule of Amy. It will be the rule of law. It will be the facts. It will be the law and the outcome dictated by the law, not by anything I personally believe.

I will say this. For the young, conservative women out there who are pro-life and embrace your faith, there is a seat at the table for you. This is historic. This nomination is different. This is a breakthrough for conservative young women.

I was honored to be the chair of the committee that reported out Judge Barrett to the floor of the Senate, and I am going to be honored to cast my vote to put her on the Supreme Court, exactly where she deserves to be.