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Boxer To Vote No On Roberts

Says Nominee Has Not Clearly Committed To Defending the Rights and Freedoms of All Americans

September 21, 2005

Washington, DC – The following are U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s remarks as prepared for delivery on the Senate floor:

When a seat on the Supreme Court opened in July, I made a promise to the people of California. I promised that I would only support a nominee whom I believed would protect their rights and freedoms.

After much thought, I have concluded that I cannot, in good conscience, give my constituents that assurance with the nominee before us, Judge John Roberts.

In fact, I am very worried that, with Judge Roberts on the bench, the rights and freedoms that have made America a light to the rest of the world could be in serious jeopardy.

The question before us as Senators is not whether Judge Roberts is a brilliant lawyer, and not whether he is well-qualified or well spoken, affable or unflappable. He is certainly all of those things.

But examining his credentials is where our analysis should begin, not end. In poll after poll, the American people say that before we vote, it is important for us to know where Judge Roberts stands on key issues that define who we are as Americans, and what kind of country we will leave behind for our children.

The next Chief Justice will have the opportunity to steer a deeply-divided Court and influence our lives for generations.

In recent years, the court has issued 5-4 decisions to protect our air, to safeguard women’s reproductive health and the rights of the disabled, to give HMO patients the right to a second opinion, to allow universities to use affirmative action, and to guarantee government neutrality towards religion.

With so many of our fundamental rights hanging in the balance, it is not good enough to simply roll the dice, hoping a nominee has changed his past views. It’s not good enough to think, “This is the best we can expect from this President.”

And, no, it’s not good enough to say, “Let’s support this nominee because the next one might be worse.”

At least that rationale won’t work for me, as long as the Constitution gives me and my colleagues an equal role in the process.

It fails the bar that I set—the bar that says that I must be able to look into the eyes of my constituents and assure them that I feel confident in this choice.

We must demand far more, because the people we represent deserve no less.

I will vote “no” on this nomination because of what we know and what we don’t know about Judge Roberts.

Long before President Bush made this nomination, we knew that his model judges were Justices Scalia and Thomas.

Now, President Bush isn’t known for changing his mind, so that doesn’t leave us in a good place if we’re hoping for a moderate. Nor does a reading of Judge Roberts’s record while he served in the Reagan Administration 20 years ago.

In fact, some of Judge Roberts’s writings raised serious concerns about whether he understands the ugly history of discrimination and injustice in our country, or the proper role of government in combating them.

Of course, we were told “Don’t pay attention to those memos. They were written long ago when he was just a young and lowly staff attorney.”

But Judge Roberts never backed away from those memos. When given the chance, he just said over and over that they were written for someone else. Well, someone else is not up for the Supreme Court. For me, Judge Roberts needed to do better.

Then we tried to examine Judge Roberts’s tenure years later as a top political appointee under the first President Bush. That was when he worked as Deputy Solicitor General for Ken Starr.

Again and again, Senator Leahy and the Democratic Caucus asked for documents relating to 16 cases that would have shed light on the way Judge Roberts approaches civil rights, reproductive health, the separation of church and state, and environmental protection.

The Democratic women Senators asked too.

But, again and again, the Administration refused to turn over the documents and Judge Roberts refused to help.

The President had access to that information when he nominated Judge Roberts. Why should this Senate—a full partner in choosing the next Justice—have anything less?

I also looked for some assurance in the decisions Judge Roberts wrote during his two years on the DC Court of Appeals. But, again, nothing.

In fact, some cases raised serious concerns about his commitment to protect the environment and his support of an all powerful executive branch.

Judge Roberts had three days to tell the Senate and the American people what he really believes today.

He had the chance repeatedly to distance himself from the controversial positions he once advocated. He did not.

Let’s face it: Judge Roberts was specific only when it mattered least and evasive when it mattered most.

Just last year, I ran a commercial in my campaign promising the people of my state that I would do everything in my power to ensure that we never go back to those dark days of back alley abortions when thousands of women died or were rendered infertile.

We know that Judge Roberts signed a brief calling for Roe to be overturned. It was one of the 16 cases that the Administration won’t release. And it concerned one of the many important topics about which Judge Roberts refused to answer questions.

To simply say Roe is a precedent, is stating the obvious and does not give us a real inkling of his views.

We deserved an answer to Senator Feinstein’s questions about privacy: Does the right to privacy extend to the beginning of life and the end of life? We still don’t know what Judge Roberts believes.

We deserved an answer to Senator Biden’s question about gender discrimination: Does Judge Roberts stand by an interpretation of Title IX that would have denied all remedies to a girl who was repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted by her teacher? We still don’t know.

We deserved an answer to Senator Kennedy’s questions about civil rights? Does Judge Roberts have any concerns about the constitutionality of landmark civil rights laws? We still don’t know.

How could he be silent on those laws? They stand out in history as landmark moments that changed the course of human events in America forever, that finally spoke to all of our citizens and told them that they were equal and the government would make sure that they were safe.

We deserved an answer to Senator Leahy’s questions about Congressional War Powers. If Congress passed a law requiring the withdrawal of troops during wartime, does Judge Roberts believe the President needs to honor the will of Congress? We still don’t know.

Judge Roberts says as a Justice, he will “just” be an umpire calling balls and strikes.

Of course, balls and strikes look a lot different depending upon where you stand.

And umpires have a lot of power to decide who wins and who loses.

Who will be the winners if we confirm Judge Roberts next week?

Will it be the families of America?
The children of America?
The victims of violence?
The poor and the powerless?
The environment?
Will it be freedom?
Liberty?
Justice?
Will it be our Constitution?

Or will the winners be those who want to stop the national government from acting to protect and defend our people and their rights and freedoms?

I can’t tell my people that Judge Roberts will continue the steady march of progress that has defined our country’s proud history.

So I will vote “No.”

And because I believe the Senate deserves those 16 cases and answers to our questions, I will vote “No.”

I hope and pray my doubts about Judge Roberts are misplaced and he will join the moderate wing of the court to protect the constitution of this country that I love so much and the deserving people of my great state who will be counting on him to protect their rights and freedoms.

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