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tv   Senators Blumenthal and Franken on Bush Nomination  CSPAN  July 20, 2017 2:29am-2:58am EDT

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parenthood affiliate in kentucky and indiana. and we urge the senate to reject a nominee that lacks the independence and temperament necessary for a federal judgeship. so, mr. president, -- that's unquote. i urge our republican colleagues to make the right choice, to reject this nominee and put in place people on a court position that is a lifetime appointment, one that all americans feel that they, that will represent them on: thank you, mr. president. i ask that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. president. i'm here, mr. president, to oppose the nomination of john bush to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit. i've been a member of the judiciary committee since i was sworn in as a united states senator six years ago. i participated in dozens of confirmation hearings. over time i've become accustomed
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to hearing nominees attempt to dodge our questions. but i've rarely come across a nominee who was as reluctant to respond to my questions as john bush, and i've rarely felt so unsure and concerned about how a nominee would assume the responsibility of a federal judgeship if confirmed. and i should emphasize to my colleagues as well as to the people of connecticut, there is no nomination that i take more seriously than a federal judgeship, having been before numerous federal judges, district court judges, court of appeals judges and the united states supreme court on four occasions, and having seen as a law clerk as well as a practicing lawyer the normal
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impact and profound importance of this position. i take no job more seriously and regard no more steadfastly any responsibility that we have. mr. bush has previously stated that originalism was, quote, the only principled way to interpret the constitution. when our ranking member, senator feinstein of california, then very recently asked mr. bush if judges should always use originalism to interpret the constitution, his response was, quote, my personal views on constitutional interpretation will be irrelevant if i'm fortunate enough to be confirmed to the sixth circuit.
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all due respect to mr. bush, i could not disagree more strongly. asking judicial nominees about how they would approach the task of interpreting the law is extraordinarily relevant to this job. first, judges are not robots. they have views regarding how best to interpret the statutes and the constitution, and applying those views is not inconsistent with judicial impartiality, but especially for a judge on the united states court of appeals, those views matter greatly. and the american people have a right to know what those views are for an appellate judge who often cannot simply follow the letter for the exact words of the constitution or the supreme
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court's interpretation of it. there are all kinds of gaps that may be left, questions that may be unanswered, and circuit court judges are routinely asked to address constitutional questions that the supreme court has never addressed or has answered incompletely and sometimes, yes, incorrectly. and changes its constitutional view because of a circuit court judge who has the temerity to say the supreme court either hasn't spoken to the issue or perhaps has spoken decades ago at a time when that interpretation of the constitutional law had relevance and correctness but not now.
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to do our job, reviewing judicial nominees for presidents, we need to know how mr. bush plans to do his job, and his refusal to answer causes me extraordinary concern, particularly because in light of his previous comments, i have a pretty good idea how he intends to continue to apply what he believes to be the original philosophy. one thing to say forthrightly and honestly, that's my philosophy originally. it's another to completely dodge the question. i'm pleased to be on the floor today with one of my really great colleagues, senator franken, who will speak after me, and to have followed two other extraordinarily distinguished members of this body, senators murray and hirono, to focus these concerns regarding mr. bush's approach to the question of women's health care and constitutionally
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guaranteed reproductive rights under the fourth amendment. let me note at the outset that our republican colleagues have referred to a letter of support for mr. bush from someone who is on the board of the kentucky planned parenthood affiliate. that letter in no way represents the position of the organization as a whole. in fact, the president of planned parenthood of indiana and kentucky has stated that mre independence and temperament necessary for a federal judgeship, end quote. that's the position of the president of planned parenthood for indiana and kentucky. he, quote, lacks the independence and temperament necessary for a federal judgeship. the issue of a woman's right to
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make decisions about when she becomes pregnant and whether she has an abortion is a constitutionally guaranteed protected right of every woman, regardless of where she lives and what her background is, and any other circumstances. she has that right, and i need to know that any person i vote to confirm to the federal bench will approach cases that involve reproductive rights with the utmost care and respect for decades of hard-won precedent. in coming years, judges will have to determine what constitutes an undue burden, and that is a term of law undue burden as states continue to pass new laws that try to restrict women's reproductive
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rights, they will have to probe the boundaries of the court's hobby lobby decision on how religious and reproductive freedom might conflict. these issues are far from easy, and the supreme court has spoken to them in many respects incompletely or unclearly. so when a nominee will not tell me how he plans to approach constitutional interpretation, even though his record strongly reflects a hostility to reproductive rights, how can we evaluate it? how am i to do my job when i don't know how he is going to do his job. and how am i supposed to take seriously his pledge to faithfully apply roe v. wade and
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related precedents? all i have left in evaluating mr. bush's nomination is what he said outside of the confirmation process before he was nominated for this position, and as many of us know, mr. bush was a blogger, authoring hundreds of posts over several years under a pseudonym. i have read his blog. in the words of one of my colleagues, i am not impressed. he once wrote, quote, the two greatest tragedies in our country, slavery and abortion, relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the united states supreme court first in the dred scott decision and later in roe, end quote. never mind that this statement is absurd on its face, never mind that the naacp called it, quote, offensive and dishonest,
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end quote. what concerns me at this moment is how this is the best statement of his views on the constitutionality of women's reproductive rights that we have heard, and in light of that statement, how can we expect anything else of this nominee other than the narrowing of reproductive rights? then, along with the question of how john bush might act as a judge comes the question of how the public perceives him. when you search the internet about his nomination, here's what you find on his blog. a post suggesting that someone, quote, gag the house speaker, end quote, referring to former house speaker nancy pelosi, not current house speaker ryan. two posts suggesting that a leader of the blog from kenya
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must be somehow connected to president obama. a post applauding former presidential candidate mike huckabee's statements that he believes, quote, life begins at conception, end quote, and, quote, strongly ideas -- strongly disagrees with the idea of same-sex marriage, end quote. and a whole collection, a menage of partisan and inflammatory language to use some euphemisms for what can be found there. reporters who have covered this nomination have used words like provocative, controversial, not normal. this nomination is indeed not normal. it is different, and profoundly
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not in a good way. "the courier journal," bush's hometown newspaper, chose this headline for their coverage. quote, trump's judicial nominee from louisville ducks questions about his controversial blog posts, end quote. the article wept on to quote lawyers describing his answers to judiciary committee members as, quote, laughable, end quote, absurd, and dishonest, all quotes. the judiciary committee heard from 27 lgbtq organizations and 14 reproductive rights groups, and they told us in no uncertain terms no to this nominee, and, mr. president, i agree with them. finally, mr. bush wants us to
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believe that his political views can be separated from his law practice or from his prospective service on the courts. when asked to -- when asked why he cited unreliable news sources like worldnet daily in his writings, he repeatedly shrugged off the question and declined answers, saying that political analysis is different from legal analysis. there is truth to that point. prior political activity is no disqualification in and of itself serving as a judge -- to serving as a judge, but the importance of public confidence in the judiciary is profound. the confidence of people in the fairness and impartiality of our judges is profoundly important and necessary. the courts have no armies, they
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have no police force of their own. their rulings are credible, enforceable because of confidence in the fairness and objectivity of our judges. someone who is so clearly unqualified by virtue of his record i cannot support, and i encourage my colleagues to join me in voting against mr. bush's nomination. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. franken: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mr. franken: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise also in opposition to the nomination of john kenneth bush. mr. bush has been nominated to serve as a judge on the sixth circuit court of appeals and has the dubious distinction of having a anonymously written
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scores of blog posts that aren't just offensive -- which believe me, they are -- but call into question the nominee's ability to be a fair and impartial arbiter of the law, which is -- that's the job of a judge. especially with a circuit court judge. in my view, mr. president, the nominee's lengthy record of inflammatory and intemperate writings stand as evidence that mr. bush falls far short of the high standards that the senate should demand of nominees to the federal bench. now, over the course of nearly ten years, mr. bush wrote under
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the pseudonym of g. morris. he wrote under a pseudonym on a political blog operated by his wife where he published hundreds of incendiary posts. now, let me be absolutely clear. being politically active or expressing political opinions is not, not a disqualifying characteristic in a judicial nominee, at least not in my view. but as i said during mr. bush's hearing, it's important for the senate in a attempting to determine whether a nominee is qualified to serve as a federal judge, to assess that nominee's judgment. a judge. to assess his or her judgment. and that's what i would like the
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president and all our members to consider. in the hundreds upon hundreds of posts that mr. bush anonymously published on his wife's blog, mr. bush did not demonstrate what any, any member of this body would characterize as good judgment. far from it. during his hearing, i questioned the nominee about a series of posts in which he seemed to fixate on president obama's kenyan heritage. in one post mr. bush discussed an article that suggested that a reporter was detained by the kenyan government because he was investigating, quote, barack obama's connections in the country and that shorties had locked up the reporter in order
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to prevent him from publishing what he discovered. the article that mr. bush quoted from and linked to was published on worldnet -- world net daily, a website known for peddling conspiracy theories, bogus claims, and white nationalism. in fact, world net daily is wildly known for trafficking in birtherrism, the widely debunked and racist belief that president obama was not born in this country. nonetheless, mr. bush presented the world net daily article as fact. this is a --this is a guy who
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has been nominated to be a circuit court judge and calling a world net daily article fact. during his confirmation hearing, i asked mr. bush -- and i asked him over and over again -- how he skied decided -- how he decided which sources to rely upon and how he determined that a particular source was credible. in my view, whether a nominee is discerning real news from fake news or blogs that traffic in conspiracy theories from legitimate journalism directly speaks to the nominee's judgment. again, the job is judge. really now.
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world net daily. whether and how a nominee evaluates the credibility of a claim or a source of information provides a window into how he might approach the factual record in a case, for example. that's what judges -- that's what judges do. but mr. bush couldn't answer my question. he said, quote, as a blogger i was finding things that was in the news that were of note, i thought. in response to a written question i posed, mr. bush said, rather than perform original research to support his claims, he and said r instead, quote
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relied on readily available sources on the internet. that would be the prestigious internet. really? really? from a nominee for the circuit court. this begs the question -- how did mr. bush find these articles? does the nominee consume a steady diet of disinformation and conspiracy theories? i asked him that by writing in a question. mr. bush responded that he did not remember how he came upon those sources and that, in fact, aside from the articles he quoted, that he did not recall reading any articles from those sources despite the fact that he
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linked to and quoted liberally from conspiracy-minded websites many, many times in miss writings -- in his writings. but, mr. president, despite mr. bush's claims that he can't remember how it was that world net daily found its way on to his computer screen and despite his claim that he can't recall how he discovered, and then later cited, the writings of a birther conspiracy theorist, i suspect in mr. bush's case the simplest explanation is probably the right one. i suspect the reason mr. bush quoted from sources like world net daily so frequently is that mr. bush tbreengted -- f.b.i. --
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frequen ted those sources. that is a suspicion based on my judgment. mr. president, the fact that a man who anonymously wrote inflammatory and anonymous blog posts and consumed information from sources that routinely published lies and racially insensitive material could be confirmed to a lifetime appointment on one of the u.s. courts of appeals should shock the conscience of each and every member of the senate no matter what your politics are. i have served on the judiciary committee for eight years and during that time i've had the opportunity to evaluate countless judicial nominees. i understand that each
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senator -- each senator has his or her own way of determining whether a nominee should be confirmed. some embrace a philosophy of originalism or strict constructionism. others reject that view. for some senators, row v. -- roe v. wade serves as a litmus test. but setting aside the usual yardsticks by which we measure judicial nominees, mr. bush should strike each and every member of this body as manifestly unqualified by any measure. through his writings alone, and i urge all of my colleagues
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simply to look at husband writings on his blog, or on his wife's blog, that he wrote with a pseudonym. they are awful. they are disgraceful. please, i beg my colleagues to read these and say to yourself, is this really -- are these writings the writings of a man, no matter what his leanings are in terms of how constitutional law should be decided, what his philosophy is -- whether his philosophy is conservative or
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progressive or liberal -- how we can confirm someone to the circuit court, to a federal judgeship for life, who writes anonymously these awful, incendiary things relying on -- on sources that are known for spreading hatred and linking to them. i -- i don't think we've been here before. i don't think we've been here before. i would beg my colleagues, before you cast this vote, that
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i believe that you could not justify to your constituents that you could not justify to your family family, please read -- family, please read these blog posts by this nominee and check your conscience, not at the . check it -- not at the door. check it. this is one of those incredibly unusual circumstances where someone comes before us, who i believe is uniquely
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