Below are Senator John Kerry’s full, prepared remarks on the floor of the Senate today on the upcoming vote on Judge Samuel Alito to serve a Justice on the United States Supreme Court:
“Mr. President. Today, we face perhaps one of the most important choices we will make as Senators. A choice that will affect the direction of our country for the next several decades. President Bush has nominated Judge Samuel Alito to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the United States Supreme Court. He has nominated a man who consistently defers to the government action regardless of how egregious it may be; a man who erects rather than breaks down barriers in the area of civil rights, a man who, to this day, has never retreated from his declaration that the Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to privacy, a man who has demonstrated a persistent insensitivity to the history of racial discrimination in this country and, was even, at the government’s request, willing to ignore overwhelming evidence that African Americans were intentionally stricken from an all-white jury in a black defendant’s capital case.
“And who will this nominee replace? He has been nominated to fill the seat of the Court’s swing vote—a woman who has upheld affirmative action programs, a woman who upheld the right to choose, a woman who upheld state employees’ rights to the protections of the Family Medical Leave Act, a woman who recognizes that a declaration of war is not a ‘blank check’ for the President’s actions. A woman who decides each case narrowly on the facts presented, keenly aware of the greater impact her decisions have.
“We are being asked to confirm a nominee who will shift the ideological balance of the Court dramatically to the right. We are being asked to confirm a nominee whose views will undermine the balance of power that I believe keeps our country strong. For these and other compelling reasons, I oppose this nomination.
“In the past, I, like many of my colleagues, have voted for federal court nominees despite the fact that I disagreed with them ideologically. In fact, I voted for Justice Scalia because, despite our ideological differences, in the confirmation process he promised an open-mindedness that we have not witnessed. So the words of the confirmation hearings do not erase ideology. And that ideology cannot be overlooked because a Justice’s decisions can—and will—have a profound impact on the rights we otherwise take for granted.
“Something more is needed. A Supreme Court Justice needs to understand and respect our constitutional rights and liberties. He or she needs to recognize the importance of precedent and the limited situations in which overruling it is acceptable. He or she needs to appreciate the significant struggles that our nation has endured—in the context of racial, sexual, and disability discrimination—and be aware of the road still to be traveled.