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Peters Floor Remarks in Opposition to Judge Kavanaugh’s Nomination to U.S. Supreme Court

Peters: “Unfortunately, when I examine the record of Judge Kavanaugh, I do not see an open mind. I do not see fairness. I see a partisan ideologue who will do judicial backflips to rule in favor of large corporations, the powerful and the elite.”

Peters: “Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation will provide only more division in our country and cast a cloud over the decisions of the court for years to come.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) spoke on the Senate floor today in opposition to Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Below is video and text of his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. President:

“Our nation has seen some deeply concerning trends in recent decades: increased polarization, flat wages for workers and a growing tribal mindset that makes it increasingly difficult for people to trust each other and our public institutions.

“We are also seeing a partisan divide growing stronger. For example, sixty years ago, about four percent of Americans said they would be seriously disappointed if their son or daughter married someone from the opposite political party. Today, it is almost half. 

“We are also seeing a growing economic divide. Fifty years ago, nine out of ten 30-year olds in America were better off than their parents at the same age. In 2010, only half were.

“It feels like the bonds that make us a cohesive society are fraying – and that life in the United States is growing more unfair for so many Americans. Bringing our country back together and strengthening our bonds with each other will not be an easy task. But, without question, the Supreme Court has an unparalleled ability to either move our society forward – or pull us further apart.

“Unanimous opinions by the Supreme Court to strike down segregation in public schools, affirm the right of criminal defendants to an attorney, and rein in the use of executive privilege by President Nixon show the ability of ideologically diverse justices to agree on what is fair, and what is just.

“But, the Supreme Court, as an institution, is far from infallible. The same institution that just three years ago made marriage equality the law of the land also upheld the internment of American citizens of Japanese dissent while our parents fought to liberate prisoners held in German concentration camps across the Atlantic Ocean. The same institution that gave American women the right to make decisions about their own reproductive health in Roe v. Wade denied citizenship to African American slaves in the shameful Dred Scott decision.

“Some of my colleagues have said they have confidence that Judge Kavanaugh believes Roe v. Wade is settled law, I hope they are right. But I doubt it. I think that, if confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh will spearhead the continued erosion of rights for American women, and, if given the chance, will vote to overturn this settled precedent.

“Lots of talk in Washington about the Supreme Court centers on precedent, or power, or procedure. Mr. President, I would argue, however, voting for a Supreme Court nomination is fundamentally about people.

“In making a decision on how I will vote on a Supreme Court nominee, I ask two questions:

“First, how will the nominee serve the people of Michigan?

“Second, how will the nominee serve the nation as whole?

“And now more than ever, I think we need our Supreme Court not to be just fair, we also need Americans to truly believe that the justices that make up the Supreme Court are fair, and capable of dispassionate deliberation. No human being, of course, can be entirely impartial, or without bias, but we need Supreme Court justices who are able to understand their biases and set them aside for the good of the country. We need fairness, and we need trust.

“Our fraying social fabric can only be rebuilt by trust, trust in our institutions, trust in each other and trust that our courts will give every American a fair chance in an era where corporate profits are ballooning to record levels, but 40 percent of Americans don’t have the savings to cover a $400 emergency expense. A breakdown of trust undermines our democracy. The farther and faster we retreat to our partisan tribal corners – the harder it will be to ever meet again in the middle.

“While it is fair for Americans to expect a certain level of partisanship from their elected officials, they expect better from judges. Our founders created a co-equal branch of government dedicated to fairness.

“Unfortunately, when I examine the record of Judge Kavanaugh, I do not see an open mind. I do not see fairness. I see a partisan ideologue who will do judicial backflips to rule in favor of large corporations, the powerful and the elite. When the Senate conducts its duty to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominees, we often talk about methods of constitutional interpretation. Some judges are textualists, some are originalists, some are pragmatists.

“I believe Judge Kavanaugh is a corporatist, pure and simple. He starts with the outcome that corporate executives would want and then works backwards. I believe this is the unifying theme of his rulings over the past decade.

“Let’s take a moment and review his record. Judge Kavanaugh sided with big polluters when he wrote that the Environmental Protection Agency could not enforce their “good neighbor” rule. This common sense rule simply requires states whose air pollution blows across state lines to bear some responsibility for their downwind emissions. The good neighbor rule is one of the best ways to crack down on sulfur dioxide – a noxious pollutant that has created a public health crisis in Detroit with childhood asthma rates almost 40% above the national average. More sulfur dioxide in the air means more children in the hospital, and fewer children in the classroom.

“Judge Kavanaugh substituted his own values and judgment for the decisions of Congress and the EPA, but fortunately, even conservative justices on the Supreme Court voted to overrule him and allowed the “good neighbor” rule to stay in place. Judge Kavanaugh apparently does not believe in good neighbors, and he also does not believe in good bosses.

“He has consistently ruled against workers and their interests every chance he gets. He wrote a dissent saying that companies can simply walk away from collective bargaining agreements made with their workers by just creating a spin-off, non-union company. He ruled that companies can call the police to prevent workers from exercising their right to peacefully picket. For Judge Kavanaugh, the First Amendment right to speech and assembly comes second to a corporation’s bottom line.

“This is the judicial philosophy that the Republican majority is just hours away from elevating to the highest court in the land. Based on a review of Judge Kavanaugh’s rulings, it is clear that if something is good for consumers, he will find a way to oppose it.

“For example, Judge Kavanaugh sided with large telecom corporations over Michigan families, startups and small businesses when he wrote a dissent to gut net neutrality protections. Judge Kavanaugh sided with payday lenders, financial fraudsters, and global megabanks when he ruled that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the CFPB, was unconstitutional. Not only does Judge Kavanaugh always rule directly in favor of the largest corporations and powerful special interests, his rulings show that he wants to further tilt our campaign finance system in their favor.

“He has spoken out and ruled in favor of unlimited political spending in federal elections. In 2011, Judge Kavanaugh authored an opinion that would allow foreign nationals, not Americans, to spend unlimited, yes, unlimited, money on issue ads in American elections. Mr. President, if you like dark money undermining our free and fair elections, well, Judge Kavanaugh is your guy. I think that Judge Kavanaugh genuinely believes that money is speech, and that corporations are people. To him, Americans are only an afterthought.

“Mr. President, I know many Americans are wondering whether Judge Kavanaugh will look out for their best interests if confirmed to the Supreme Court. I hear it all the time in Michigan. To my fellow Americans I would say this, if you enjoy breathing clean air, if you have a boss, if you care about not being defrauded by financial bad actors, or if you care about a woman’s right to choose, Judge Kavanaugh will not be providing the fairness you seek.

“Like many Americans, I followed closely the testimonies of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee. As I watched Dr. Ford, I didn’t see a partisan ideologue motivated by politics. What I saw was a woman speaking with credibility, earnestness and bravery.

“As I watched Judge Kavanaugh testify before the Judiciary Committee, I saw something very different. I didn’t see the temperance and humility we expect from a Supreme Court justice, I saw rage and entitlement. I didn’t see a thoughtful legal mind bound by precedent or tradition, I saw a partisan political operative cloaked in judicial robes bestowed upon him last decade by a Republican majority flexing their political muscle. I didn’t see an umpire who wants to call balls and strikes, I saw a man who believes he is the league’s commissioner, a man who thinks he should have the power to rewrite the rules of the game to help his powerful friends. I didn’t see a man committed to fairness and building trust. I saw a man committed to consolidating power and scoring political points. And I saw a man whose fluid relationship with the truth is beneath the United States Senate and beneath the United States Supreme Court.

“Today, more than ever, America needs trust, and we need fairness. Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation will provide only more division in our country and cast a cloud over the decisions of the court for years to come.

“Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation and start over with a nominee worthy of our Supreme Court.

“I yield the floor.”