Thursday, April 6, 2017

AAPI senators opposed Gorsuch nomination; Harris lists reason for her 'nay' vote

California's Sen. Kamala Harris speaks against Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

T IS MORE THAN LIKELY that the U.S. Senate will approve the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch Friday (April 6) for the the Supreme Court after the Republican majority invoked the so-called nuclear option that requires only a majority vote instead of 60 votes for passage.

However, the expected approval for Gorsuch doesn't change the fact that the super-conservative judge will probably be put in position to alter the direction of the United States law for decades to come, perhaps undoing the precedents set into law since the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
UPDATE: As expected, Gorsuch was confirmed Friday morning, 54 to 45. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) were the only Democrats who voted with Republicans to support President Donald Trump’s court pick. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) missed the vote.
“Today, Senate Republicans destroyed a process that has been in place for years to accomplish their goal of confirming a far-right Supreme Court Justice,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

“Last year, they wouldn’t even give President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a hearing. And today, they changed the rules in order to ram through a nominee who cannot garner even 60 votes to sit on the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch would preserve the 5-4 conservative majority on the Roberts Court that favors corporate interests over individual rights.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, said in a statement she had shared concerns with Gorsuch’s “predilection for putting corporate profits ahead of people time and again,” and called his history on civil, disability and reproductive rights—as well as other issues—“troubling.”

“Judge Gorsuch had several opportunities to explain himself, his past positions and his judicial philosophy, but he did not. Earning a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court requires much more than a genial demeanor and an ability to artfully dodge even the most pointed of questions. In his four days of confirmation hearings, Judge Gorsuch did not show any ability to alleviate my concerns. I cannot vote to confirm him,” Duckworth’s statement reads.

Judge Neil Gorsuch dodges questions during Senate hearings.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, the first Indian/American woman elected to the upper chamber, was among the women who spoke against Gorsuch's nomination.

During her speech, she drew on her own personal experience as a beneficiary of affirmative action and blasted his positions in favor of corporations over ordinary Americans.

“You see, almost two decades after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, I was part of only the second class to integrate the Berkeley, California public schools," said the first-term Senator and former Attorney General for Calfironia. "If that Court had ruled differently, I likely would not have become a lawyer, or a prosecutor, or a district attorney, or the Attorney General of California. And I certainly would not be standing here today as a United States Senator.”

She cites the case of Grace Hwang, who sued her university for refusing to grant her medical leave even though she had cancer. Gorsuch voted in favor of the university.

A full transcript of her speech is below:

Mr. President, across the street from this chamber stands the United States Supreme Court. And above its doors are the words, “Equal Justice Under Law.”

As senators, we have a solemn responsibility to ensure that every man and woman who sits on that Court upholds our ideals and that ideal.

As a United States Senator, I take that responsibility extremely seriously.

You see, almost two decades after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, I was part of only the second class to integrate the Berkeley, California public schools.

If that Court had ruled differently, I likely would not have become a lawyer, or a prosecutor, or a district attorney, or the Attorney General of California. And I certainly would not be standing here today as a United States Senator.

I know from personal experience just how profoundly the Court’s decisions touch every aspect of Americans’ lives.

And for that reason, I rise to join my colleagues in strong opposition to the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court.

RELATED: AAPI legal group deeply troubled by Gorsuch
As you know, Judge Gorsuch went through 4 days of hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And here’s what we learned.

We learned that Judge Gorsuch refused to answer the most basic of questions. He initially even refused to share his views on Brown v. Board of Education.

We learned that Judge Gorsuch has a deeply conservative worldview.

And we learned that Judge Gorsuch interprets the law in a theoretical bubble, completely detached from the real world. As he puts it, “focusing backward, not forward.”

If Judge Gorsuch joins the United States Supreme Court, his narrow approach would do real harm to real people—especially the women of America.

America deserves a Supreme Court Justice who will protect a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own health. Judge Gorsuch won’t.

Judge Gorsuch carefully avoided speaking about abortion. But he’s clearly demonstrated a hostility to women’s access to healthcare.

Last year, when the court he sits on sided with Planned Parenthood, Judge Gorsuch took the highly unusual step of asking the court to hear the case again.

Judge Gorsuch determined that a 13-thousand-person for-profit corporation was entitled to exercise the same religious beliefs as a person. That meant the company did not have to provide employees birth control coverage and could impose the company’s religious beliefs on all of its female employees.

I ask my colleagues: why does Judge Gorsuch seem to believe that corporations deserve full rights and protections, but women don’t?

As we mark Equal Pay Day today, Americans deserve a Supreme Court Justice who will protect the rights of women in the workplace. Judge Gorsuch won’t.

In employment discrimination cases, Judge Gorsuch has consistently sided with companies against their employees.

These employees include women like Betty Pinkerton. The facts of the case were undisputed. Her boss repeatedly asked her about her sexual habits and breast size and invited her to his home—then fired her when she reported his sexual harassment.

Judge Gorsuch ruled against Betty.

Why? Well part of this justification that he offered was that she waited two months before reporting the harassment.

Americans deserve a Supreme Court Justice who upholds the rights of all women—including transgender women. Judge Gorsuch won’t.

When a transgender inmate claimed that the prison’s practice of starting and stopping her hormone treatment was a violation of her rights, Judge Gorsuch disagreed.

As the National Women’s Law Center observed, “Judge Gorsuch’s record reveals a troubling pattern of narrowly approaching the legal principles upon which every day women across the nation rely.”

They write that his appointment, “would mean a serious setback for women in this country and for generations to come.”

But judging by his record, if Judge Gorsuch becomes Justice Gorsuch, women won’t be the only ones facing setbacks.

Take Luke, a young boy with autism, whose parents sought financial assistance after switching him from public school to a school specializing in autism education.

Judge Gorsuch ruled that the minimal support Luke received in public school was good enough.

People in the autism community were up in arms. And in the middle of his Senate hearing two weeks ago, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Judge Gorsuch was wrong on the law.

Or consider Alphonse Maddin. Maddin was a trucker who got stuck on the road in sub-zero temperatures—minus-27 degrees, as he recalls—and abandoned his trailer to seek help and save his life.

For leaving the trailer, he was fired. Judge Gorsuch wrote that the company was entitled to fire Maddin for not enduring the cold and for not staying in his freezing truck.

Then there’s Grace Hwang, a professor diagnosed with cancer. She sued when her university refused to provide the medical leave her doctor recommended.

Judge Gorsuch called the university’s decision “reasonable” and rejected her lawsuit. Sadly, Grace died last summer.

Mr. President, Judge Gorsuch has an Ivy League credential. But his record shows that he lacks sound judgment to uphold justice.

He ignores the complexities of human beings—the humiliating sting of harassment, the fear of a cancer patient or a worker who feels his life’s in danger. In short, his rulings lack a basic sense of empathy.

Judge Gorsuch understands the text of the law, to be sure.

But he has repeatedly failed to show that he fully understands those important words - “Equal Justice Under Law.”

For the highest court in the land, I say let’s find someone who does.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.