Report by Paula Antolini
October 5, 2018, 7:53AM EDT
Sen. Murphy Delivers Remarks on Kavanaugh Nomination, Rushed FBI Investigation
Murphy: “[Kavanaugh’s appearance before the Judiciary Committee] is one of the most astonishing unveiling of political bias that I ever witnessed from a nominee asking for the support of the United States Senate”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Thursday delivered remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate where he discussed the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court and what it meant for health care and people with pre-existing conditions, gun safety laws, and women’s reproductive health. Murphy also talked about the consequences of Kavanaugh’s politically charged testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in light of credible sexual misconduct allegations against him.
“I hate the way this has played out. I hate the lateness of the revelation. I hate the rush job of an investigation. I hate the inability to recognize that none of us, Democrats or Republicans, are obligated to stand by a nominee that’s got real questions about his history and his impartiality just because the president likes him. This is not right. None of this is right. And the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court filled with hatred towards Democrats and our allies, surrounded by legitimate questions about his fitness for office, is totally unnecessary, even to try to accomplish the political aims of my Republican friends in the majority. And in the end, most importantly, the way in which this has been done is deeply, deeply hurtful to the unity of our great nation,” said Murphy.
The full text of Murphy’s remarks is below:
Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, this is the first time that I’ve come to the floor to speak on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh since the events of the last several weeks, and I want to say this at the outset in the most dispassionate way that I can. I have come to the conclusion that Brett Kavanaugh is perhaps the most dangerous nominee for the Supreme Court in my lifetime, and I’m going to vote no tomorrow when a cloture vote comes before this Senate.
And let me be clear. I had decided to vote no before his confirmation hearing, before the allegations of sexual assault were levied against him, before his second confirmation hearing, before the FBI refreshed its background check investigation. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t willing to do my due diligence. It’s simply that his judicial record that I became familiar with as he was becoming known as one of the finalists for this selection was enough for me to decide that he wouldn’t rule fairly on the questions before the court that affected the millions of people that I represent in Connecticut.
Every year I take a walk across my state. It takes about five days. It’s about 120 miles, give or take. It’s a chance for me to conduct sort of a week-long running focus group where I get to talk to hundreds of voters who frankly aren’t plugged into politics on a daily basis. The people that I meet at gas stations and auto body shops, folks that are out walking their dog in the morning–they’re part of the 98% of Americans that don’t watch Sean Hannity or Anderson Cooper or Rachel Maddow. But you know what, they’ve got strong opinions about what’s happening in this country just like everybody else, and I’m glad that they share them with me. For the last two years since President Trump took office, the number one topic that people talk to me about during the walk is health care. People in Connecticut, they’re just scared about what they see as this coordinated effort that’s underway in Washington to take away their insurance coverage and the protections for people in my state that have preexisting conditions. Folks in Connecticut, they don’t think the Affordable Care Act is perfect. They want us to work on making it better. But they don’t want us to end it without a plan for what’s going to come next. They were glad when the repeal plan was defeated last year. But now they’re worried that President Trump is trying to use the courts to get done what he couldn’t get done in the people’s branch of government, the legislative branch.
Brett Kavanaugh was vetted by two conservative political groups whose chief legislative priority is repealing the Affordable Care Act come hell or high water. The head of one of those groups said on television that it really didn’t matter to him which of the names on the list Trump picked because they all shared their group’s priorities. And Trump himself told the American public that he would never pick a judge like John Roberts who voted to uphold the major parts of the Affordable Care Act. Kavanaugh, in his judicial writing, has been hostile to the Affordable Care Act. Frankly, I’ll just take the president’s word for it. He picked Brett Kavanaugh to help him unwind judicially a law that he couldn’t unwind legislatively, and that will have huge consequences on folks in my state who need insurance coverage for things like cancer, addiction, or mental illness.
Now while Kavanaugh hasn’t said a lot specifically on the Affordable Care Act, his views on choice, well they’re pretty well known. As a lawyer in the Bush White House, Kavanaugh went out of his way to note that Roe v. Wade isn’t settled law, that it just takes five Supreme Court justices to get rid of it. As a circuit court judge, he denied access to an abortion for a young immigrant girl even though she met the legal criteria to receive the procedure. He uses rhetoric and terminology that is right out of the anti-choice dictionary when talking about reproductive health care. He talks about abortion on demand. He called birth control an abortion-inducing drug. Kavanaugh, no doubt about it, is going to vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Any senator who convinced themselves otherwise is just living in a fantasy world. The people I represent in Connecticut don’t want the Supreme Court of the United States telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies. The judicial doctrine of privacy comes from a Connecticut case, Griswold v. Connecticut. Brought by a pioneering civil rights lawyer in New Haven. In my state we just prefer judges stay out of our private business.
Finally, when I’m walking across the state of Connecticut, I’m talking an awful lot about the issue of gun violence. It’s not just that the murder of 20 little first graders in Sandy Hook still hangs heavy over Connecticut, it’s that the murders in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport and suicides all over our state, they continue unabated. And listen, it’s not like everybody I meet when I’m walking across the state agrees with me on what we should do. When you walk east to west, you spend half your time in eastern Connecticut, the part of the state where people still love their guns, and I get into lots of spirited arguments about assault weapons and gun permits. But what there’s relative agreement on is that it’s our choice on how we should regulate guns. Here’s where Judge Kavanaugh’s views really, really get outside the mainstream. His testimony before the Judiciary Committee suggests he’s a second amendment radical believing that almost all restrictions on gun ownership are likely unconstitutional. Here’s a for instance. He stated in his testimony that so long as a weapon is in regular commercial use, it can never ever be banned. That’s a recipe for disaster because all you need then is a very short period of legalization of say, automatic weapons, followed by a few years of robust commercial sales, and then that gun has permanent constitutional protection forever. That’s absurd, but that’s Brett Kavanaugh’s view on the second amendment.
So what I’m saying is this, I didn’t need the tragic drama of the last few weeks to know how I felt about Brett Kavanaugh serving on the Supreme Court. I was an early no vote and I don’t apologize for coming to that conclusion months ago. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not entitled to have a strong opinion on what has played out before the eyes of America during the month of September, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t have the right to make the argument here that for those in the Senate who weren’t as sure as I was that what happened in the last 30 days should be dispositive on the future of this nomination.
I said at the outset that I thought Brett Kavanaugh is the most dangerous nominee to the court in my lifetime. That opinion is one I only arrived at after hearing his testimony before the committee last week. And I think it’s really important for senators to understand the Pandora’s box that they are opening by voting yes, endorsing his performance, his demeanor, and what I would argue is maybe most important, his bias. Let me say first that I don’t believe any Democrat should defend the way in which Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations were brought to light. I don’t know who leaked the contents of that letter. I think it’s fair to guess it was somebody that didn’t want Brett Kavanaugh confirmed. Now Dr. Ford should have controlled her story or at least the Ranking Member of the committee to whom she entrusted it should have controlled that story. The timing of its release, listen, it just sucked. Something that explosive, that serious, it shouldn’t be shoved into debate at the very last minute.
But here’s the thing. The way in which the substance is revealed does not change the substance. Yes, it may give you reason to be angry about the way in which it was made known. It may make you suspicious of the motivations of the person who did it. But the method doesn’t alter the substance. The substance is Dr. Ford’s very credible account of a sexual assault carried out against her by somebody who wants to be on the Supreme Court. And let me be clear, there’s really no reason not to believe Dr. Ford, and plenty of Republicans admitted to this after she came before the committee. She disclosed the incident well before Kavanaugh was nominated. She was composed, credible and thoughtful in her testimony. And why on earth would she put her and her family through this horror if not because she’s telling the truth? And though I believe Dr. Ford, you frankly don’t even have to be sure she’s telling the truth to decide that the risk of nominating someone with these kind of serious charges swirling around them is an unnecessary burden for this body or the judicial system to bear. If there’s a chance he did these things, just move on to the next eligible conservative candidate.
So these charges bother me greatly. But what truly shook me about Kavanaugh’s testimony, and the speeches frankly that many of my Republicans colleagues delivered on this floor since, is the idea proffered by Judge Kavanaugh is that these charges are simply a result of a Clinton-connected, liberal conspiracy theory. Let me read to you what he said last Thursday. “When I did at least okay enough at the hearing that it looked like I might actually get confirmed, a new tactic was needed. Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready.” He then went on to allege, “The whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that had been stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” Come on. Listen, I’m telling you I don’t like how this information was released to the press. I’m not trying to be a blind partisan here. But to believe and then to publicly claim that this is some larger organized effort by Democrats who purposefully held back this allegation until the last minute is to reveal to America your true political bias.
There was no conspiracy. There was no orchestrated smear campaign. Listen, if that was our M.O., why didn’t we use it on Neil Gorsuch when there was more anger on our side because that was the seat that should have been Merrick Garland’s? Why didn’t we use fake allegations of sexual misconduct against the President’s cabinet nominees who engendered much more grassroots anger in early 2017 than Brett Kavanaugh did in the summer and fall of 2018? It just doesn’t make sense because it’s made up. There’s zero facts behind it. And for a nominee to the Supreme Court to believe such a far-fetched story and then to angrily warn Democrats that “what goes around comes around,” it’s one of the most astonishing unveiling of political bias that I ever witnessed from a nominee asking for the support of the U.S. Senate.
That has serious long-term consequences for us as a republic. Because it used to matter that in the midst of all of our political heated debates here that there were at least nine people in America who Americans could creditably believe didn’t care about our usually petty, political partisan fights. There were nine people that Americans could believe were above it all, and now we are on the verge of perhaps sending someone to the Supreme Court who called Democrats “embarrassments” and who warned his political opponents menacingly that we will “reap what we sow.” I don’t really know what that means, but I’m sure that I know that I don’t want a nominee to the Supreme Court saying anything like that.
Now, the fight over the Kennedy seat, it was going to be controversial and contentious. There was no way around that, but it didn’t need to go down like this. It didn’t need to divide this country. It didn’t need to marginalize victims to politicize the Supreme Court like this nomination has. And add to the conspiratorial beliefs, the hatred that was oozing from him toward Democrats that day, is the likelihood that this nominee was also lying over and over again about, at the very least, relatively small things for which he had really little reason not to tell the truth. I’m sorry, I know this sounds trivial talking about things like a Devil’s Triangle or boofing. But is it really not too much to ask, to expect that a nominee for the most important court in the world tell you the truth about even the small embarrassing stuff. Even if you don’t believe Dr. Ford, I just don’t know why you’d want to put someone on the court that has a habit of fibbing. This is the Supreme Court.
I guess for me, Mr. President, it comes down this question, which I think is a really, really important one. Why did Republicans stick with Brett Kavanaugh given all of this when Republicans could have just sent him back to the president and brought before this body another really conservative judge who would have regularly sided with the right side of the court? This process isn’t a trial, it’s a job interview. And not a single one of us would hire someone into our office if credible allegations like this were attached to that person or if they conducted themselves in an in-person interview the way that Brett Kavanaugh did on Thursday. Seriously. Think of that. Not a single senator would willingly hire a person with these questions surrounding him or her. But we’re here with a vote pending in a matter of hours.
I just came from that secure briefing room where I was force-fed a half-baked FBI investigation that I was told I had to read and digest in no more than an hour. It was humiliating. I felt like I was 9 years old. But that humiliation was sort of the capstone for me on explaining why we are still moving forward on Brett Kavanaugh. At least it helps me fill out the details of my theory of the case and I’ll end here. Listen, I get it that it’s really hard to be a Republican today. I mean that sincerely. The things that the Republican party used to stand for–they have been obliterated by this president. The grand old party has become the party of Trump. There’s only a thread of unifying ideology left between this administration and congressional Republicans. Republicans are much more so organized now around a cult of personality. And I know that many of my Republican colleagues are really uncomfortable about this.
Without this unifying set of ideas that combine together the president and congressional Republicans, I fear that you are using this nomination to cling to the one thing left that you can agree on, and that is the methodical, complete domination of your political opponents. On social media they call it “owning the libs” because why else would you stick with this nominee other than just because you want to shove down the throats of Democrats this deeply flawed nominee? Why else try to railroad through his nomination without a background check and then when you’re forced to do one, humiliate us all by giving us 60 minutes to review what turned out to be a product that raises more questions than it answered. I wish the answer was that you all think that Brett Kavanaugh was worth it. He’s just that important a jurist, that serious a thinker to do whatever it takes to get him on to the court. But I don’t think that’s what Republicans believe. And so we’re left searching for the real reason why we’re having a vote tomorrow. I don’t hate my Republican colleagues. I don’t have any interest in dominating them or getting my way just to get my way. And I wish I could explain this process, especially over the last few weeks, through any other prism than the desire by Republican leadership to simply bury Democrats into the ground.
I hate the way this has played out. I hate the lateness of the revelation. I hate the rush job of an investigation. I hate the inability to recognize that none of us, Democrats or Republicans, are obligated to stand by a nominee that’s got real questions about his history and his impartiality just because the president likes him. This is not right. None of this is right. And the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court filled with hatred towards Democrats and our allies, surrounded by legitimate questions about his fitness for office, is totally unnecessary, even to try to accomplish the political aims of my Republican friends in the majority. And in the end, most importantly, the way in which this has been done is deeply, deeply hurtful to the unity of our great nation. Thank you, Mr. President. And I yield.