Hatch decries Democrat’s ‘politically convenient fairy tale’ regarding SCOTUS appointment

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the longest-serving member and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, took to the Senate floor today to defend the constitutionality of the Senate’s decision to wait until after the election to consider a Supreme Court nominee. In defending the Republican position, he also laid bare many of the false claims made by the president and his supporters about the Senate’s role in the confirmation process.

Hatch said:

No matter how many times you say a falsehood, it is still false.  No matter how many times the Minority Leader claims that the Constitution dictates how and when the Senate must conduct the confirmation process, it is still false.  No matter how many times he claims that the Senate is not doing its job, it is still false.  No matter how many times the Minority Leader questions the integrity and character of the Judiciary Committee Chairman, it is still false.  No matter how many times the Minority Leader contradicts himself and tries to avoid his own judicial confirmation record, his claims today are still false.

The full speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:

Mr. President, I rise once again to address the Supreme Court vacancy created by the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  The Constitution gives the nomination power to the President and gives the advice and consent power to the Senate, but does not tell either how exercise their power.  Our job of advice and consent begins with deciding how best to exercise this power in each situation, and the Senate has done so in different ways, at different times, and under different circumstances.

For two reasons, I am convinced that the best way to exercise our power of advice and consent regarding the Scalia vacancy is to defer the confirmation process until the current presidential election season is over.  The first reason is that the circumstances we face today make this the wrong time for the confirmation process.

This vacancy occurred in a presidential election year, with the campaigns and voting already underway.  Different parties control the nomination and confirmation phases of the judicial appointment process.  The confirmation process, especially for Supreme Court nominees, has become racked by discord.  And this is one of the bitterest and dirtiest presidential campaigns we have seen in modern times.

Combining a Supreme Court confirmation fight and a nasty presidential campaign would create the perfect storm that would do more harm than good for the Court, the Senate, and the nation.

The circumstances I mentioned are identical to those that led Vice President Biden in 1992 to recommend exactly what we are doing today.  In June 1992, when he chaired the Judiciary Committee, he identified these very circumstances and concluded: “[O]nce the political season is under way, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.”

To be fair, something significant has changed since 1992.  The confirmation process has become even more partisan, contentious, and divisive.  In 2001, Democrats plotted a procedural revolution, launching new tactics to prevent Republican judicial nominees from being confirmed.  Over the next several years, they led 20 filibusters of appeals court nominees and prevented several from ever getting appointed.  Then, in 2013, Democrats used a parliamentary maneuver to abolish the very filibusters they had used so aggressively.  The Minority Leader knows this because he was in the middle of it all.  If the condition of the confirmation process in 1992 led Chairman Biden to recommend deferring it to a less politically charged time, Democrats’ actions since then have only made this conclusion more compelling today.

The second reason for deferring the confirmation process for the Scalia vacancy is that elections have consequences.  The 2012 election obviously had consequences for the President and his power to nominate.  But the 2014 election had its own consequences for the Senate and its power of advice and consent.  A big reason that the American people gave Senate control to Republicans was to be a more effective check on how the President is exceeding his constitutional authority.

The 2016 election also will have consequences for the judiciary. The timing of the Scalia vacancy creates a unique opportunity for the American people to voice their opinion about the direction of the courts.

Mr. President, on Monday the Minority Leader reminded us of an important axiom.  These are his words: “No matter how many times you say a falsehood, it is still false.”  I agree.

The Minority Leader claims that the Senate has a constitutional duty, a constitutional obligation, to hold a prompt hearing and timely floor vote for the President’s nominee to the Scalia vacancy.  The Hill yesterday quoted him saying this: “The obligation is for them to hold hearings and to have a vote.  That’s in the Constitution.”  By my count, the Minority Leader has made this claim here on the Senate floor more than 40 times.  Well, no matter how many times he says this falsehood, it is still false.

The Minority Leader’s claim is false because the Constitution says no such thing.  This is what the Constitution actually says about appointing judges: “The President…shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint.”  Nothing about hearings or votes, nothing about a timetable or schedule.

I say this to my Democratic colleagues: do you really want to stand behind a completely fictional, patently false claim like that?  Do you really want to base your position on what the Washington Post Fact Checker called a politically convenient fairy tale?  I understand that you want the Senate to conduct the confirmation process now for the President’s nominee.  We can and should debate that.  But will none of you be honest enough to at least say what everyone in this chamber knows, that the Constitution does not require us to do things what way?

The Minority Leader not only contradicts the Constitution, he contradicts himself.  The Minority Leader was serving here in the Senate in 1992.  Senator Reid took no issue with Chairman Biden’s conclusion that the circumstances at the time – the same circumstances that exist today – counseled deferring the confirmation process.  Senator Reid did not assert then what he repeats so often today, that the Senate has a constitutional duty to give nominees prompt hearings and timely floor votes.

On May 19, 2005, during the debate on the nomination of Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals, the Minority Leader said of the Constitution: “Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give Presidential appointees a vote.”

In that 2005 speech, the Minority Leader was particularly adamant about this point.  Claiming that the Senate has a duty to promptly consider each nominee and give them an up-or-down vote, he said, would “rewrite the Constitution and reinvent reality.”  Today, the political shoe is on the Minority Leader’s other foot and he is the one claiming that nominees must have prompt consideration and up or down votes.  By his own standard, the Minority Leader is rewriting the Constitution and reinventing reality.

Now that it serves his own political interests, the Minority Leader has reversed course and claimed in a recent Washington Post opinion column that the Senate has a constitutional duty to give nominees “a fair and timely hearing.”  Let me once again mention 1992, when Chairman Biden denied a hearing to more than 50 Republican judicial nominees.  He allowed no hearing at all, whether fair or unfair, timely or otherwise.  In September 1992, the New York Times reported on page one that this was part of an obstruction strategy to keep judicial vacancies open in the hope that Bill Clinton would be elected.  Senator Reid served here at the time, but I can find no record of him demanding that every nominee get a timely hearing.  Instead, he wholeheartedly supported his party’s strategy of obstruction.

In his recent Post column, the Minority Leader also wrote that the Senate has a constitutional duty to give nominees a floor vote.  Between 2003 and 2007, however, he voted 25 times to deny any floor vote at all to Republican judicial nominees.  As far as I can tell, we have the same Constitution today as we did in 1992, 2003, 2005, and 2007.  We have the same Constitution today, with a Democrat in the White House, as we did in the past with a Republican President.  The Minority Leader cannot have it both ways.  He cannot today insist that the Constitution requires the very hearings and floor votes that he and his fellow Democrats blocked in the past.

On Monday, the Minority Leader again attacked the Judiciary Committee and its distinguished chairman, Senator Grassley.  The Minority Leader held up a quote from an editorial in an Iowa paper about how the Chairman is conducting the confirmation process.  I don’t know when the Minority Leader started caring about what home-town newspaper editorials said about the confirmation process, but this appears to be yet another epiphany.  On February 19, 2003, the Reno Gazette-Journal criticized Democrats for their filibuster of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals.  A few weeks later, the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial called the filibuster campaign promoted by Senator Reid “nothing more than ideological posturing and partisan bluster.”  As I mentioned earlier, the Minority Leader went on to vote 25 times for filibusters of Republican judicial nominees.

Also on Monday, the Minority Leader claimed that the Judiciary Committee is not doing its job and the chairman is “taking his marching orders from the Republican leader.”  Later in the day, the Senate unanimously passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which I authored with Senator Chris Coons.  The Minority Leader dismissed this legislative accomplishment because it was reported out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously.  He said: “I don’t see today why the Judiciary Committee should be given a few pats on the back.”  The Minority Leader knows better.  He knows that the strong bipartisan outcome for this legislation was the result of nearly two years of work behind the scenes, primarily at the staff level.  It is painfully obvious that the Minority Leader desperately wants to score political points and to spin everything he can to his advantage.  But to disparage and belittle the arduous work by both Democrats and Republicans, by both staff and Senators, is disgraceful and insulting.

Before he denigrated this significant bipartisan achievement, the Minority Leader should have read the Obama administration’s statement of policy on the bill.  The Defend Trade Secrets Act will promote innovation and help minimize threats to American businesses, the economy, and national security interests.  The Obama administration calls this an “important piece of legislation” that would “provide important protection to the Nation’s businesses and industries.”

No matter how many times you say a falsehood, it is still false.  No matter how many times the Minority Leader claims that the Constitution dictates how and when the Senate must conduct the confirmation process, it is still false.  No matter how many times he claims that the Senate is not doing its job, it is still false.  No matter how many times the Minority Leader questions the integrity and character of the Judiciary Committee Chairman, it is still false.  No matter how many times the Minority Leader contradicts himself and tries to avoid his own judicial confirmation record, his claims today are still false.

The Senate today has the same power of advice and consent as when Democrats were the majority.  We have the same responsibility to determine the best way to exercise that power in each situation.  In 1992, Chairman Biden recommended deferring the confirmation process so that “partisan bickering and political posturing” did not overwhelm everything else.  The false claims and disreputable tactics being used today, including by the Minority Leader, only confirm Chairman Biden’s judgment and its application today.  For the reasons I have explained before, and will no doubt do so again, the confirmation process for the Scalia vacancy should be deferred until the election season is over.

Twitter: @STGnews

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  • RealMcCoy April 7, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    I bet that speech really ticked ed off.
    Look out for his next EOAK article whining about how it’s not fair that Dems don’t get to keep changing policy to suit their whims, and how Repubs are the devil because he doesn’t agree with them.
    Oh look, I practically wrote ed’s next drivel for him!

    • .... April 8, 2016 at 6:41 am

      Oh look you just had another moment of useless drivel. ..

    • .... April 8, 2016 at 6:42 am

      Psssst: let me help you out whiner. ( HAVE )

      • RealMcCoy April 9, 2016 at 4:02 pm

        Pretty sad you’re still trying to play on that. Do we need to go back to your many, many, MANY typos in recent weeks?

  • Bender April 7, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Holy press release Batman! Partisan PR is not news. SGNews, if you insist on posting press releases consider also posting the rebuttals from the other party.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic April 8, 2016 at 5:08 am

      We welcome rebuttal submissions, Robin – I mean, Bender.
      We publish press releases generated by public officials the Southern Utah community has elected; perhaps what they do and say will inform our next choices.
      Submissions are welcome by email to: [email protected]
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

    • RealMcCoy April 8, 2016 at 11:43 am

      ed will provide the rebuttal.
      Stay tuned.

  • Bender April 8, 2016 at 9:38 am

    My beef is that these press releases look exactly like news stories, including the byline “Written by or for St. George News”. Also, since the entire Utah congressional delegation is Republican, you are cutting and pasting only Republican press releases and presenting as news. If your ambition is to be the Fox News, or Pravda, of SoUtah I guess this works. I had hoped for more journalist ambition from St George News.

  • tcrider April 8, 2016 at 9:59 am

    And what will happen if hilarious ends up in office and decides to pick one of her cronies,
    everyone including hatch will be complaining that the pick is too lib, the stalemate will
    never end, the gop will keep disintegrating and we will keep getting excellent picks like
    trump and cruz.

    • RealMcCoy April 8, 2016 at 11:44 am

      Well, that’s what the senate is there to do- be a check and balance system.

      • .... April 9, 2016 at 3:58 pm

        LOL ! you believe the Senate does they’re job ? that’s funny ha ha ha your the only one,they got you fooled

        • RealMcCoy April 11, 2016 at 10:32 am

          Sarcasm, dotboy. Sarcasm.

        • RealMcCoy April 14, 2016 at 1:09 pm

          You meant YOU’RE the only one.
          I know, the English language can be difficult for people like you…. hang in there, dotboy!

  • Rainbow Dash April 8, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Mr. Hatch,

    Let me start off by quoting you

    No matter how many times he claims that the Senate is not doing its job, it is still false.

    That statement begs this question:

    Other then shut down the government, fail hundreds of times to remove the Affordable Care Act and fail hundreds of time to prove Hilary did anything illegal during Benhazi, What have you been doing?

    • .... April 9, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      He hasn’t done anything !

    • RealMcCoy April 9, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      Now, I’m not a big Hatch fan, but I believe he’s been part of the group trying to halt the massive wave of FAIL that obammy has been forcing on the nation.
      Progress in congress is like trying to herd cats- a lot of movement and noise, but in the end nothing really gets accomplished.

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