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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  February 24, 2016 2:00pm-4:01pm EST

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mr. franken: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator minnesota. mr. franken: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 15 minutes. the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. franken: i am sorry. i would suggest the absence of a quorum. i mean, i would vitiate -- please vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. franken: sorry. i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 15 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. franken: thank you. thank you. okay. mr. president, it's been a busy day. i rise today to address the recent vacancy on the united states supreme court and urge my colleagues to grant swift consideration of the president's eventual nominee. make no mistake, mr. president, the passing of justice antonin scalia came as a great shock.
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though justice scalia and i did not share a common view of the constitution or of the country, i recognize that he was a man of great conviction an and it shoud be said, a man of great humor. my thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends, his clerks, and his colleagues. but, mr. president, we must now devote ourselves to the task of helping to select his successor. the constitution, so beloved by justice scalia, provides that the president shall -- quote -- "-- or, -- quote -- "shall nominate and, by and with the consent of the senate, shall appoint judges of the supreme court." let us all remember that each and every senator serving in this body swore an edge to
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support and defend that same constitution. it is our duty to move forward. we must fulfill our constitutional obligation to ensure that the highest court in the land has the full complement of justices. unfortunately, it would seem that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle do not agree. and they wasted no time in making known their objections. less than an hour -- less than an hour after the news of justice scalia's death became public, the majority leader announced the senate would not take up the business of considering a replacement until after the presidential elections. quote -- "the american people should have a voice in the selection of their next supreme court justice," he said. the only problem with the
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majority leader's reasoning, mr. president, is that the american people have spoken -- twice. president barack obama was elected and then reelected by a solid majority of the american people, who correctly understood that elections have consequences, not the least of which is that when a vacancy occurs, the president of the united states has the constitutional responsibility to appoint a justice to the supreme court. the constitution does not set a time limit on the president's ability to fulfill this duty, nor by my reading does the constitution set a date after which the president is no longer able to fulfill his duties as commander in chief or to exercise his authority to, say, grant pardons or make treaties.
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it merely says that the president shall hold office for a term of four years. and by my count, there are in the neighborhood of 11 months left. if we were truly to subscribe to the majority leader's logic and extend it to the legislative branch, it would yield an absurd result. senators would become ineffective in the last year of their term. the 28 senators who are now in the midst of their reelection campaigns and the six senators who are stepping down should be precluded from casting votes in committee or on the senate flo floor. 10 committee chairs and 19 subcommittee chairs should pass the gavel to a colleague who is
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not currently running for reelection or preparing for retirement. bill introduction and, indeed, the cosponsorship of bills should be limited to those seniors who are not yet serving in the sixth year of their terms. if the majority leader sincerely believes that the only way to ensure the voice of the american people is heard is to lop off a last year of an elected official's term, i trust he will make these changes. but i suspect i it does not. rather, it seems to me, that the majority leader believes that the term of just one elected official in particular should be cut short. which begs the question, mr. president, just how should it be cut? as i said, by my count, approximately 11 months remain in barack obama's presidency --
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11. now, 11 months is a considerable amount of time. it's sizable. it has heft. but i wouldn't call it vast. then again, there's a certain arbitrariness to settling on 11 months. after all, it is just shy of a full year. perhaps in order to simplify matters, an entire year would be preferable or maybe just six months, half a year. it is a difficult decision, mr. president. if only the american people had a voice in selecting precisely how much time we should shave off the president's term. of course now that i mention it, there is a way to give the american people a voice in this decision. the majority leader could propose a constitutional amendment. it would, of course, have to pass both houses of congress with a two-thirds majority, but
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that's not an insurmountable obstacle, provided it clears congress, the amendment would then bypass the president, which in this case would be very apt and be sent to the states for their ratification. so if the majority leader truly wants the voters to decide how best to proceed, our founding document provides a way forward. but, mr. president, suggesting that the senate should refuse to consider a nominee during an election year stands as a cynical affront to the constitutional system, and it misrepresents our history. the senate has a long traditional of working to confirm supreme court justices in election years. one need -- one need look no further than sitting associate justice anthony kennedy, a supreme court nominee appointed by a republican president and
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confirmed by a democratic senate in 1988. president reagan's last year in office, during an election year. so when i hear one of my colleagues say that -- quote -- "it's been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm supreme court nominees during a presidential election year," i know that's not true. now, i'm not the only one who knows that's not true. the fact checking publication "politifact" recently observed that -- quote -- "should republican lawmakers refuse to begin the process of confirming a nomination, it would be the first time in modern history" -- unquote.
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scotusbacklog, an undisdisputable authority on all matters related to the court, "the historical record does not reveal any instances in over a century of the senate failing to confirm a nominee in a presidential year because of the impending election. the fact of the matter is that there is a bipartisan tradition, a bipartisan tradition of giving full and fair consideration to the supreme court nominee. since the judiciary committee began to hold hearings in 1916, every pending supreme court nominee, save nine, has received a hearing. and you know what happened to those nine nominees? they were confirmed within 11
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days of being nominated. in 2001 during the first administration of president george w. bush, then-judiciary committee chairman leahy and ranking member hatch sent a letter to their senate colleagues making clear that the committee would continue its long-standing, bipartisan process and practice of moving pending supreme court nominees to the full senate, even when the nominees were opposed by a majority of the committee. but, regrettably, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are leaving that long tradition behind. yesterday every republican member of the senate judiciary committee sent a letter to the majority leader vowing to deny a hearing to the president's eventual nominee.
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this committee, they wrote, "will not hold hearings on any supreme court nominee until after our next president is sworn in on january 20, 2017." mr. president, this marks an historic dereliction of the senate's duty and a radical departure not just from the committee's past traditions, but from its current practices. i know that my good friend, chairman grassley, cares a great deal about maintaining the legacy of the judiciary committee and the propriety of its proceedings. under his leadership, we've seen the committee put country before party and move consensus bipartisan proposals. and i hope that chairman grassley would approach the task of confirming


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