Sen. Cruz Delivers Opening Statement at Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing for Supreme Court Justice Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh
‘I am confident that Judge Kavanaugh will become Justice Kavanaugh, and will be confirmed to the United States Supreme Court’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) delivered the following opening statement:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“Judge Kavanaugh, welcome. Welcome to your family and to your friends. Demonstrating your good judgment, your wife was born and raised in West Texas, and you and she have been good friends of Heidi and mine for 20 years. Thank you for your decades of public service. I’m sorry that your daughters had to endure the political circus of this morning. That is, alas, the world that is Washington in 2018.
“I want to discuss what this hearing is about and what it’s not about.
“First, this hearing is not about the qualifications of the nominee. Judge Kavanaugh is, by any objective measure, unquestionably qualified for the Supreme Court. Everyone agrees that he is one of the most respected federal judges in the country. He has impeccable academic credentials—even if he did go to Yale—and you served for over a decade on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, often referred to as the ‘second highest court in the land.’ So, our Democratic colleagues are not trying to make the argument that Judge Kavanaugh is not qualified. Indeed, I have not heard anyone even attempt to make that argument.
“Second, this hearing is not about his judicial record. Judge Kavanaugh has over 300 published opinions, which altogether amount to over 10,000 pages issued in his role as a federal appellate judge. Everyone agrees that a judge’s record is by far the most important indicium of what kind of justice that nominee will be. And, tellingly, we’ve heard very little today from Democratic Senators about the actual substance of Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record.
“Third, it’s important to understand today is also not about documents. We’ve heard a lot of arguments this morning about documents. There’s an old saying for trial lawyers: If you have the facts, pound the facts. If you have the law, pound the law. If you have neither, pound the table. We’re seeing a lot of table pounding this morning. The Democrats are focused on procedural issues because they don’t have substantive points strong enough to derail this nomination. They don’t have substantive criticism with Judge Kavanaugh’s actual judicial record, so they’re trying to divert everyone with procedural issues.
“But let’s talk about the documents for a moment. The claims that the Democrats are putting forward on documents don’t withstand any serious scrutiny. Judge Kavanaugh has produced 511,948 pages of documents. That includes more than 17,000 pages in direct response to this Committee’s written questionnaire, which is the most comprehensive response ever submitted to this Committee. The more than a half million pages of documents turned into this Committee is more than the number of pages we’ve received for the last five Supreme Court nominees combined. Listen to that fact again. The over a half million documents turned over to this Committee is more than the last five nominees submitted to this Committee combined.
“So, what’s all the fuss over the documents that are not turned over?
“Most of those concerned Judge Kavanaugh’s three years as the Staff Secretary for President George W. Bush. Now many people don’t know what a Staff Secretary does. But that’s the position in charge of all of the paper that comes into and out of the Oval Office. Critically, the Staff Secretary is not the author of the paper coming into and out of the Oval Office; that paper is typically written by the Attorney General, by the Secretary of State, by other cabinet members, by other senior White House officials. The Staff Secretary is simply the funnel for collecting their views and then for transferring the paper back and forth. In other words, those documents written by other people say nothing—zero—about Judge Kavanaugh’s views. And they say nothing—zero—about what kind of justice Judge Kavanaugh would make. But they are by necessity the most sensitive and confidential documents in the White House. They are the documents that are going to the President—this is the advice and the deliberations of the President at the senior level, and the Staff Secretary is the conduit for those documents.
“So, why is it that the Democrats are putting so much energy in saying, ‘Hand over all of those documents’?
“Because they know beyond a shadow of doubt that President George W. Bush’s White House team is not going to allow every piece of paper that went to the President to be made public any more than any other White House would. Republican, or Democrat, no White House would allow every piece of paper that went to and from the President to be made public. Indeed, there are rules and laws and procedures for when and how presidential papers become public. The reason the Democrats are fighting so loudly on this issue is they’re making a demand they know is impossible to meet—and by the way, is utterly irrelevant to what actually Judge Kavanaugh thinks, believes, or has said. It would open up all sorts of fishing expeditions to attack, re-litigate George W. Bush’s record as President, and what various cabinet members and senior advisors might or might not have said. But, it is at the end of the day simply an attempt to distract and delay. Indeed, the multiple motions we’ve seen from Democrats to delay this confirmation, delay this confirmation—that reveals the whole joke. Their objective is delay.
“So, what is this fight about? If it’s not about documents, it’s not about Judge Kavanaugh’s credentials, it’s not about his judicial record—what is this fight about? I believe this fight is nothing more and nothing less than an attempt by our Democratic colleagues to re-litigate the 2016 presidential election. 2016 was a hard-fought election all around. And, it was the first presidential election in 60 years where Americans went to the polls with a vacant seat on the Supreme Court, one that the next president would fill. Americans knew who had been in that seat, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the greatest jurists ever to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. It was the first time since President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s re-election campaign that a Supreme Court seat was directly on the ballot. Both candidates knew the importance of the vacant Supreme Court seat, and it was a major issue of contention in the presidential election. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were both clear about what kind of justices and judges they would appoint.
“During all three presidential debates both candidates were asked what qualities were most important to them when selecting a Supreme Court justice.
“Secretary Clinton’s answer was clear. She wanted a Supreme Court justice who would be a liberal progressive willing to rewrite the U.S. Constitution, willing to impose liberal policy agendas that she could not get through the democratic process—that the Congress of the United States would not adopt, but that she hoped five unelected lawyers would force on the American people.
“That’s what Hillary Clinton promised for her judicial nominees.
“Then-candidate Donald Trump gave a very different answer. He said he was looking to appoint judges in the mold of Justice Scalia. He said he wanted to appoint judges who would interpret the Constitution based on its original public meaning, who would interpret the statutes according to the text, and who would uphold the rule of law and treat parties fairly regardless of who they are or where they come from.
“Then-candidate Donald Trump also did something that no presidential candidate has done before. He published a list of nominees that he would choose from when filing Justice Scalia’s seat, providing unprecedented transparency to the American people. All of this was laid before the American people as they went to the polls on November 8, 2016. And the American people made a choice that night.
“Now my Democratic colleagues are not happy with the choice the American people made. But, as President Obama famously said, ‘elections have consequences.’ Because the American people had the chance to vote, a national referendum on the direction of the Supreme Court. I have said a number of times that Justice Gorsuch’s nomination and Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination have almost a super-legitimacy in that they were ratified, they were decided by the American people in a direct vote in 2016.
“And so, the Democratic obstruction today is all about trying to reverse that election. They’re unhappy with the choice the American people want. And there’s a reason that the American people want strong constitutionalists on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Most Americans, and I know the overwhelming majority of Texans, want judges who will follow the law, and will not impose their policy preferences on the rest of us, and who will be faithful to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights—justices who will uphold fundamental liberties like free speech, like religious liberty, like the Second Amendment—that’s what this election was about.
“And, if you look at each of these—let’s take free speech. It’s worth noting that in 2014 every Democratic member of this committee voted to amend the United States Constitution to repeal the free speech provisions of the First Amendment. And sadly, every Democrat in the Senate agreed with that position, voting to give Congress unprecedented power to regulate political speech. It was a sad day for this institution. Years earlier, Ted Kennedy, the great liberal lion, had opposed a very similar effort. And Ted Kennedy said, ‘We haven’t amended the Bill of Rights in over 200 years. Now is no time to start.’ Ted Kennedy was right then and not a single Democrat in the U.S. Senate had the courage to agree with Ted Kennedy and support free speech.
Indeed, they voted party line to repeal the free speech provisions of the First Amendment. That is radical. That is extreme. And it’s part of the reason the American people voted for a President who would put justices on the Court who would protect our free speech.
“How about religious liberty? Religious liberty is another fundamental protection that the Democrats in the Senate have gotten extreme and radical on. Indeed, our Democratic colleagues want justices who will rubber-stamp efforts like the Obama administration’s efforts litigating against the Little Sisters of the Poor. Litigating against Catholic nuns trying to force them to pay for abortion-inducing drugs and others. That is a radical and extreme proposition. And to show just how dramatic Senate Democrats have gotten, every single Senate Democrat just a few years ago voted to gut the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Legislation that passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support in 1993, was signed into law by Bill Clinton and yet, two decades later, the Democratic party has determined that religious freedom is inconvenient for their policy and political objectives. They want justices that will further that assault on religious liberty.
“And finally, let’s take the Second Amendment. In the presidential debates, Hillary Clinton explicitly promised to nominate justices who would overturn Heller v. District of Columbia. Heller is the landmark decision issued by Justice Scalia, likely the most significant decision of his entire tenure on the bench, and it upheld the individual right to keep and bear arms. Now, Hillary Clinton was quite explicit. She wanted judges who would vote to overturn Heller and indeed, a number of our Democratic colleagues, that’s what they want as well.
“Overturning Heller, I believe, would be a truly radical proposition. To understand why, you’d have to understand what the four dissenters said in Heller. The four dissenters in Heller said the Second Amendment protects no individual right to keep and bear arms whatsoever, that it protects merely a collective right of the militia. The consequence of that radical proposition would mean that Congress could pass a law making it a felony, a criminal offense, for any American to own any firearm. And, neither you nor I nor any American would have any individual right whatsoever under the Second Amendment. It would effectively erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights. That is a breathtakingly extreme proposition. It is what Hillary Clinton promised her justices would do, and at the end of the day it’s what this fight is about.
“We know that every Democratic member of this committee is going to vote no. We don’t have to speculate. Every single one of them has publicly announced they’re voting no. Doesn’t depend on what they read in documents, doesn’t depend on Judge Kavanaugh says at this hearing—they’ve announced ahead of time they’re voting no, and most of the Democrats in the Senate have announced that in the full Senate. But everyone should understand, Judge Kavanaugh has handed over more documents than any nominee—more than the last five combined, Republican and Democratic nominees. It’s not about documents, it’s not about qualification, it’s not about record. What it is about is politics. It is about Democratic Senators trying to re-litigate the 2016 election and, just as importantly, working to begin litigating the 2020 presidential election. But we had an opportunity for the American people to speak. They did. They voted in 2016 and they wanted judges and justices who will be faithful to the Constitution. That’s why I’m confident at the end of what Shakespeare would describe as ‘a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing,’ I am confident that Judge Kavanaugh will become Justice Kavanaugh, and will be confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
Watch Sen. Cruz’s opening remarks here.