09.22.20

Peters Floor Remarks on Justice Ginsburg’s Legacy, the Stakes with the Supreme Court Vacancy & Need for Bipartisan COVID-19 Relief for Michigan

“Jamming this Supreme Court nomination through now will — without question — further divide our country — and disregard that the fact the American people are now voting — or soon will be in many states …What cannot wait is help to millions of Michiganders and Americans suffering as a result of the COVID crisis.”

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) spoke on the Senate floor to honor the life and legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and discuss what’s at stake for Michiganders and Americans with this vacancy.

During his remarks, Peters highlighted how Justice Ginsburg was a pioneer, brilliant jurist and historical giant, who blazed a trail for people  from all walks of life. He also emphasized that – with less than six weeks until Election Day — Michiganders deserve to have their voices heard in a Supreme Court vacancy and a nomination should be acted on after the next presidential term begins — and that the Senate should focus now on the urgent need to pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation to provide relief for Michiganders suffering from the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The Supreme Court plays an important role in determining and deciding important questions of law, and it represents a core pillar of our democracy,” said Senator Peters. “Its rulings profoundly shape the rights and lives of Michiganders and all Americans…Later this fall — the Court will be taking up a case pushed by the Trump Administration to completely eliminate the Affordable Care Act…If the Supreme Court strikes down protections in the Affordable Care Act, people with pre-existing health conditions will be at risk of losing protections provided under the law…Sadly, being a woman could also again become a pre-existing health condition, leading to higher costs and limited options.”

“…Simply put, the Supreme Court has the final word on how we address the major challenges of our time. In a powerful sense, it is the last line of defense for everyday Americans,” Peters continued. “Issues before the court are life changing and Americans should have a voice in selecting who will choose the next nominee —a nominee, if confirmed — who will serve for a lifetime… The selection of a Supreme Court nominee can certainly wait until after Inauguration Day. What cannot wait is help to millions of Michiganders and Americans suffering as a result of the COVID crisis…We must focus on effectively confronting the Coronavirus now. Our focus should not be on rushing to fill a Court vacancy. That can, and should, wait until Michiganders and the American people have had an opportunity to have their voices heard and for a new presidential term begins.”

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Click here to watch Senator Peters’ remarks. 

Below are Senator Peters’ remarks as delivered:

Mr. President, like countless Americans, I am grieving the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court — and first Jewish woman to do so — she was a pioneer, a brilliant jurist and a historical giant — who blazed a trail for many.

When I reflect on her life’s work, I think of her tireless efforts for women. I think of her tireless efforts to end discrimination of any kind. And, I think of her tireless work to give a voice to all those who do not have a voice.

She was fiercely committed to ensuring that justice, fairness and equality would reign across our country.

She was loyal not only to the Constitution, but to the people whose lives she knew would be affected by her rulings.

Within hours of the announcement of her death, as Americans across the country mourned her loss and paid homage to her legacy, some unfortunately turned their attention immediately to filling a  vacancy and started to scheme on how to ram through a nominee before Election Day  — only a little over 40 days from now.

It is important to remember that our constitutional democracy is built upon a system of checks and balances with three co-equal branches of government.

The Supreme Court plays an important role in determining and deciding important questions of law, and it represents a core pillar of our democracy. Its rulings profoundly shape the rights and the lives of Michiganders and all Americans.

For example, later this fall the Court will be taking up a case pushed by the Trump Administration to completely eliminate the Affordable Care Act. The Court’s ultimate decision will effectively determine the fate of health care for millions of Michiganders and Americans.

If the Supreme Court strikes down protections in the Affordable Care Act, people with pre-existing health conditions will be at risk of losing protections provided under the law.

Insurance companies will again be able to go back to the days of discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, or even dropping a person’s health coverage entirely—at a time when people need health care the most. Sadly, being a woman could also again become a pre-existing health condition—leading to higher costs and limited options.

Insurance companies will once again be able to impose annual or lifetime limits for coverage, raising costs and making health care unaffordable and inaccessible for many Michiganders.

We also know that seniors on Medicare could pay more for prescription drugs.

And anyone who has arthritis, diabetes or cancer — or anyone who gets sick — will see their health care costs go up and far too many people may be forced into financial ruin and bankruptcy if they get sick. In all, 23 million Americans could lose their current health insurance.

In sum, I think it is unconscionable that President Trump, along with Senate Republicans, are attempting to undermine critical health care in the midst of a once-in-a-century public health crisis.

And it’s not just health care that’s on the line when filling this Supreme Court vacancy:

Women may lose their right to their reproductive freedom if the seminal decision of Roe v. Wade is overruled.

The Court may further erode protections for workers and continue to undermine unions. And the court may side with large corporate special interests, rather than ensure a level playing field for workers.

The appointment of a Supreme Court nominee puts an awful lot on the line.

Voting rights and the core principle of one person, one vote are on the line.

Upholding basic critical civil rights are on the line.

Equality for millions of LGBTQ Americans who seek non-discrimination protections is on the line.

And at stake is whether the Court will protect our air and our water.

Simply put, the Supreme Court has the final word on how we address the major challenges of our time.

In a powerful sense, it is the last line of defense for everyday Americans.

With so much on the line — we should not rush a Supreme Court nominee through what should be a deliberative process.

Jamming this Supreme Court nomination through now will—without question — further divide our country — and disregard the fact that the American people are now voting — or soon will be in many states.

In fact, later this week — voters in Michigan will begin casting their ballots.

Issues before the court are life-changing and Americans should have a voice in selecting who will choose the next nominee —a nominee, if confirmed —who will serve for a lifetime.

We can certainly wait for the American people to be heard.

The selection of a Supreme Court nominee can certainly wait until after Inauguration Day.

Mr. President, what cannot wait is to help to millions of Michiganders and Americans suffering as a result of the COVID crisis.

There is no question that the Senate has an important duty to advise and consent on nominations, but this body mustfirst effectively address the unprecedented public health and economic crisis now confronting this nation.

To do so, we need to come together in a bipartisan manner.

And I know it is possible. We were able to come together and pass robust, bipartisan Coronavirus relief legislation in March and in April, and I remain ready to work in a bipartisan manner again to pass meaningful legislation again.

More than 200,000 Americans have lost their lives from this pandemic, including approximately 7,000 in Michigan.

The numbers are staggering. Behind those devastating statistics are people — mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives and children.

Tragically, some are projecting that we could see a total of 400,000 Americans die by January.

There are steps that Congress must take right now to stem the tide of this pandemic.

Not acting now in a bipartisan way to save more lives is an unconscionable betrayal of our duty to protect the American people.

We must provide relief to families and workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own — and worry every single day about how to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

We must support small businesses that need federal funding to stay afloat and to rebuild our economy after we defeat this COVID virus.

We must support parents and schools trying to ensure students can learn in a safe environment and keep up with their studies.

We must step up for communities across Michigan and the United States that have been on the frontlines of Coronavirus response efforts.

Our communities are facing massive budget challenges that could force deep cuts to essential services or layoffs of teachers, and first responders and law enforcement officials.

Now is the time for us to rise to the challenge. Americans are losing their lives and their livelihoods to this cruel pandemic.

I know we can turn the tide, but it will take political will.

And it’s not too late to save hundreds of thousands of lives and countless jobs.

But we must focus on effectively confronting the Coronavirus together, and we must do it now. Our focus should not be on rushing to fill a Court vacancy. That can, and should, wait until Michiganders and the American people have had an opportunity for their voices to be heard and for a new presidential term begins.

The COVID crisis is urgent, and it must be our priority first and foremost. Filling a Supreme Court vacancy can certainly wait, with voting already underway and Election Day only 42 days away. 

Mr. President, let’s come together in a bipartisan way and together do the right thing.

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