Senator Statements


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Sen. Feinstein Sets the Record Straight on Blue Slip, Speaks Against Right-Wing Nominees
(Democrat - California) 07/13/17
"I intend to support Mr. Newsom for the Eleventh Circuit, but I need to make a point about blue slips first. In February 2016, President Obama nominated U.S. District Court Judge Abdul Kallon for this very same vacancy on the Eleventh Circuit. A few years earlier, Judge Kallon had been unanimously confirmed with the support of Senators Shelby and Sessions when he was nominated to the federal district court bench. However, Judge Kallon did not receive a hearing in this committee last year because Senators Shelby and Sessions did not support his elevation to the circuit court and thus did not return their blue slips. That’s the prerogative of home state senators for judicial nominees from their states—including circuit court judges and it has existed for 100 years.... President Obama’s nominee Judge Kallon and three other circuit nominees waited nine, 10, up to 11 months for blue slips that never came .... I am not able to support Mr. Bush’s nomination to the Sixth Circuit or Mr. Schiff’s nomination to the Court of Federal Claims.... they expressed strident, provocative and in some cases deeply offensive opinions on a wide range of political and legal issues. If I were a litigant before them, I would not have the confidence that these individuals had the temperament or impartiality to serve as a federal judge.... Bush wrote blog posts where he relied on extreme right-wing sources like World Net Daily .... Schiff referred to Justice Kennedy as a ‘judicial prostitute,’ and accused Justice Kennedy of ‘selling his vote as it were to four other justices in exchange for the high that comes from aggrandizement of power and influence.’ Shocking. Mr. Schiff also criticized a California school district’s proposed anti-bullying initiative for teaching that ‘homosexual families are the moral equivalent of traditional heterosexual families.’ Lastly, Mr. Schiff has repeatedly made clear his hostility to environmental laws that protect our clean air and clean water."

Sen. Feinstein: Protect Senate ‘Advise-and-Consent’ Role on Judicial Nominees
(Democrat - California) 07/12/17
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today called on the Senate to protect the role of senators in the nominations process. Over the past two weeks, there have been a number of baseless attacks against the blue slip and Democratic senators .... "The blue slip has been used since 1917 and history is being misrepresented in a brazen attempt to destroy the Senate’s prerogative to ‘advise-and-consent’ on judicial nominees. “The blue slip is the one opportunity that home-state senators have to weigh in on judges that will serve their constituents and it has always been taken seriously. It was always honored during the Obama administration—even when Republicans did not return blue slips for up to two and a half years. “The bottom line is that no circuit court nominee has been confirmed without two blue slips from home-state senators since at least 1981. As far as this senator is concerned, no senator should be chastised for thoroughly vetting nominees using a tool that’s been around for 100 years. “It’s telling that just six months into the Trump administration there is this proactive effort to effectively eliminate the role of senators in the nominations process. No Democratic senator has said that he or she will reject all Trump judicial nominees. Rather, they will review nominees on a case-by-case basis. This effort isn’t a response to obstruction—there’s been no obstruction. This is about giving conservative outside groups the ability to hand pick judges. “Rather than nominate candidates to fill vacancies in states with two Republican senators, the White House has prioritized vacancies in states with Democratic senators. There are three vacancies on the Fifth Circuit, including two in Texas that have been open for more than three years. If the White House was so concerned about vacancies it would have focused on these seats.”

Sen. Feinstein Speaks on Importance of ABA on Judicial Nominations
(Democrat - California) 06/28/17
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke at a Senate Judiciary Committee nominations hearing about the importance of allowing the American Bar Association (ABA) to review and rate nominees before their hearings.... "I believe that the ABA’s independent, nonpartisan peer evaluations of judicial nominees are important and that senators ought to be able to look at these ratings and take them into account before a nominee’s hearing.... to have nominees that are not judged qualified by the bar association is deeply disturbing. And I think that if somebody can’t get a qualified rating from the ABA they shouldn’t be a judge. So, if this is aimed at weakening that standard I will be, candidly, very disappointed."

Judiciary Democrats: Allow ABA to Review Potential Judges Before Hearings
(Democrat - California) 06/23/17
Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats today released the following statement in response to the majority’s decision to hold a nomination hearing for two district court nominees before the American Bar Association has an opportunity to review and rate them: “We’re disappointed that the Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold a nomination hearing for two district court nominees before the American Bar Association will be able to complete their independent nonpartisan evaluations. The hearing will be just 21 days after the nominees were announced and 16 days after the committee received their questionnaires. The ABA is typically able to complete ratings within five weeks, but three weeks is not enough time. The Senate Judiciary Committee has an obligation to thoroughly vet nominees for these lifetime judicial appointments. Reviewing potential judges and ensuring they are qualified is one of our most important responsibilities. A nominee’s ABA rating is an important part of that process. Senators deserve the opportunity to take ABA evaluations into account as they review nominees, and the committee shouldn’t hold hearings until the ABA has an opportunity to provide those ratings.”

Sen. Feinstein on Scott Palk renomination to District Court
(Democrat - California) 06/15/17
Palk, on the other hand, had a slightly tougher path through the committee, after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., raised concerns about his decision to accept a lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association even after he was up for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. Feinstein was also bothered by Palk’s refusal to commit to recusing himself on any cases that came before him and involved the NRA. “I began to think about that and I thought how would I feel if I were before him and I knew that he was a lifetime member of an organization that is in favor of virtually anywhere, anytime gun ownership, possession, sale, transfer, whatever,” Feinstein said before voting against him. “And I think to take out a lifetime membership when you’re going to be a lifetime federal judge is rather sobering. I would not want to go before him.” Feinstein and Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy had a brief back and forth about the California Democrat’s objection to Palk, where Kennedy wondered whether any nominee going forward who is a member of the NRA would have a hard time getting through the committee. Feinstein insisted that Palk was different because he took out the lifetime membership after he was nominated and still refused to say he would recuse himself from cases in which the NRA took a position.

Sen. Feinstein Speaks on Importance of Senators on Judicial Nominations
(Democrat - California) 06/14/17
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke at a Senate Judiciary Committee nominations hearing about the importance of preserving the so-called blue slip process that requires both home-state senators to approve a nominee from their state before that nominee can move forward in the Judiciary Committee. The nomination of Kevin Newsom to the Eleventh Circuit was only possible because senators did not sign off on President Obama’s nominee to fill that vacancy having a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, but Republicans are now signaling that this long-standing precedent is in jeopardy.... "I would just like to say a quick word, if I may, about blue slips and the Eleventh Court vacancy. Last year, President Obama nominated U.S. District Court Judge Abdul Kallon for this very same vacancy on the Eleventh Circuit. Judge Kallon had been unanimously confirmed with the support of Senators Shelby and Sessions when he was nominated to the federal court bench in 2009. And I’m certain that Judge Kallon would have been an excellent Eleventh Circuit judge. However, Judge Kallon did not receive a hearing in this committee last year because Senators Shelby and Sessions did not support his elevation to the circuit court, and thus did not return their blue slips. That is the prerogative of home-state senators for judicial nominees from their states—including circuit court judges. Now, Mr. Newsom is before us today because Senators Shelby and Strange returned blue slips, and I do not hold Mr. Newsom accountable for the senators’ decision not to return blue slips on Judge Kallon’s nomination. But I’ve seen in the media some comments from friends across the aisle suggesting that blue slips have historically been less important for circuit court nominees than district court nominees. And respectfully, that’s just not the case. The fact that Mr. Newsom is sitting here before us today proves that fact."

Feinstein defends blue-slip tactic to block judges
(Democrat - California) 06/14/17
The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee is warning Republicans against cutting back on the rights of home-state senators to block judicial nominees through a process known as the blue slip. At a confirmation hearing Wednesday on three of President Donald Trump's judicial picks, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said she wanted to counter Republicans' claims that the blue-slip procedure has not been religiously applied to nominations for circuit court seats. Feinstein noted that one of the nominees appearing before the panel Wednesday, Kevin Newsom, has been selected for a seat that President Barack Obama tried to fill last year. Obama's pick, U.S. District Court Judge Abdul Kallon, never got a hearing because Sen. Richard Shelby and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions declined to return the so-called blue slips for the Alabama resident. So, the seat remained vacant. "I’ve seen in the media some comments from friends across the aisle suggesting that blue slips have historically been less important for circuit court nominees than district court nominees. And respectfully that’s just not the case. The fact that Mr. Newsom is sitting before us today proves that fact," Feinstein said.... Feinstein signaled Wednesday that it would be a mistake for Republicans to abandon the system requiring buy-in from local senators. "That is the prerogative of home state senators for judicial nominees from their states, including circuit court judges," she said.

Sen. Feinstein on John K. Bush Sixth Circuit nomination
(Democrat - California) 06/07/17
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top Democrat, told HuffPost that Bush will get his hearing next week and that his writings raise “serious questions.” “I share concerns about the hostility to a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions that Mr. Bush exhibited in his personal writings,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Some of Mr. Bush’s writings raise serious questions about whether he has the temperament and ability to be an independent judge and follow the law. We will be examining these and other writings before his hearing next week.”

Sen. Feinstein: Setting the record straight on judicial nominees and blue slip
(Democrat - California) 05/24/17
"Some Senate Republicans have recently suggested that the so-called “blue slip” for judicial nominees is less important for circuit court nominations than district court nominations. (The blue slip is a process where both senators must sign off on judicial nominations in their own state.) In fact, no Obama administration district or circuit court nominee received a Judiciary Committee hearing unless both home-state senators approved of the nominee by returning their blue slips. The Senate is set to vote on the nomination of Judge Amul Thapar to fill a nearly 1,400-day vacancy on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Thapar’s nomination by President Trump was only possible because the blue slip was always honored for circuit court nominees during the Obama administration. President Obama last year nominated Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Tabor Hughes to this Sixth Circuit vacancy. She received a unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association. However, Judge Tabor Hughes never received a hearing in the Judiciary Committee because both Kentucky senators did not return their blue slips.... Senate Democrats did not abandon the blue slip during the Obama administration even though the Senate Judiciary Committee was controlled by Democrats for six of the eight years. For example, Judiciary Committee Democrats did not advance Obama nominees in any of the following situations: Only one home-state senator returned the blue slip. Senators initially returned blue slips but later rescinded them. Judicial vacancies were left open for years. Senators recommended a nominee to the White House for a district court vacancy, but refused to return a blue slip for that same nominee when nominated to a circuit court vacancy. The blue slip serves an important purpose by incentivizing meaningful consultation and cooperation between the White House and Senate on judicial nominees. Eliminating the blue slip is essentially a move to end cooperation between the executive and legislative branch on judicial nominees, allowing nominees to be hand-picked by right-wing groups. During the administrations of President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, no circuit court or district court nominees were confirmed without blue slips from both home-state senators. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote in a 2014 op-ed, “I continued this blue slip tradition. Not a single district court nominee received a committee hearing, and not one appeals court nominee was confirmed without the support of their home-state senators…”"

Sen. Harris Delivers Floor Remarks Against Gorsuch Nomination
(Democrat - California) 04/04/17
"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.... 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."

Sen. Feinstein Opposes Gorsuch Nomination
(Democrat - California) 04/03/17
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced her opposition to Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court: Senator Feinstein’s full remarks at the Judiciary Committee follow: ...

Sen. Feinstein on Gorsuch: "I cannot support this nomination"
(Democrat - California) 04/03/17
Video: Senator Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivers her opening remarks at the Judiciary Committee vote on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court justice on April 3, 2017.

Sen. Kamala Harris: Why I cannot support Judge Gorsuch
(Democrat - California) 03/23/17
"President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, certainly has a paper resume that would impress legal scholars. But his rulings repeatedly have failed to achieve justice for all Americans.... The rest of Judge Gorsuch’s record also shows he’s willing to favor corporations over the American people. He believes companies can impose their religious views on employees and deny women birth-control coverage. And he has been hostile toward federal agencies that protect American workers and consumers.... Judge Gorsuch has consistently valued narrow legalisms over real lives. I must do what’s right. I cannot support his nomination."

Sen. Feinstein Speaks at Supreme Court Nomination Hearing
(Democrat - California) 03/20/17
"Unfortunately, due to unprecedented treatment, Judge Garland was denied a hearing .... It is the Supreme Court that will have the final word on whether corporations will be able to pollute our air and water with impunity.... Congress relies on agency experts to write the specific rules, regulations, guidelines and procedures necessary to carry out laws we enact. These are what ensure the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act to protect our environment from pollution.... Judge Gorsuch’s position, were it to be adopted, would take away agencies’ authorities to address these necessary details.... if we were to dogmatically adhere to “originalist” interpretations, then we would still have segregated schools and bans on interracial marriage. Women wouldn’t be entitled to equal protection under the law. And government discrimination against LGBT Americans would be permitted."

Sen. Feinstein: Gorsuch Documents Incomplete
(Democrat - California) 03/14/17
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today called on Judge Neil Gorsuch to provide additional documents in advance of his nomination hearing for the Supreme Court. “With your hearing only six days away, it has come to my attention that your response via the Department of Justice to my letter of February 22 is incomplete and must be supplemented immediately,” Feinstein wrote. Feinstein went on to request additional documents and information in several areas she said were incomplete, including a number of issues related to executive power and national security, such as litigation Judge Gorsuch participated in or may have supervised as a high-ranking official in the Bush Justice Department from 2005 to 2006. “Documents produced by the Justice Department demonstrate you had a leading role in litigation and strategy over executive power and national security matters that have not yet been identified to the Committee,” Feinstein wrote. Full text of the letter follows:

Senate Judiciary Democrats Request Sessions Testimony on False Statements, Russia Contacts
(Democrat - California) 03/03/17
All nine Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats today requested that Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) call Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appear before the committee to answer questions about false statements during his confirmation process and contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The senators wrote, “The Attorney General’s responses to our questions during his confirmation process were, at best, incomplete and misleading. Given the seriousness of this matter, we do not believe that a written submission to correct the record is sufficient. Members need to hear directly from the Attorney General as well as have the opportunity to ask him questions in public.” Full text of the letter follows:

Sen. Feinstein Requests Additional Information Related to Gorsuch Nomination
(Democrat - California) 02/28/17
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent four letters this month requesting documents and additional information on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Sen. Feinstein on Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination
(Democrat - California) 02/24/17
Feinstein also pushed up against the protesters when she refused to say how she would vote on Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for a seat on the Supreme Court. As the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, “I don’t announce what I’m going to do before the hearing,” she said. “I don’t believe that’s right.” But the crowd erupted in boos when she said that she had a good conversation with Gorsuch, with protesters suggesting Feinstein shouldn’t even have met with him. The senator said her two biggest concerns with Gorsuch, or any other Supreme Court nominee, are his views on gun control and women’s reproductive rights. But politics also will play a role, she admitted. The Republican refusal to hold a hearing on Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the seat Gorsuch is seeking, “sticks in our craw,” she said. “It’s hard to forget.”

Sen. Feinstein Votes ‘No’ On Jeff Sessions Attorney General Nomination
(Democrat - California) 02/08/17
Feinstein yesterday spoke against Sessions’s nomination. Full remarks are available here. [LINK] Excerpts from her remarks, as delivered, follow:

Sen. Feinstein: Republicans Shutting Down Senator Warren ‘Indefensible’
(Democrat - California) 02/08/17
“In 1986, Coretta Scott King wrote a powerful letter expressing her belief that Jeff Sessions lacked the ‘requisite judgment, competence and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws’ to serve as a federal judge. “Coretta Scott King was a voice worth hearing in 1986 and her opinion certainly remains relevant and valid today. “For Republicans to shut down Senator Warren when she tried to read Coretta Scott King’s letter is indefensible. That action is even more offensive because they allowed her male colleagues to read the exact same passages without batting an eye.”

Sen. Feinstein: ‘I Must Vote No’ on Sessions
(Democrat - California) 01/31/17

Sen. Feinstein on Supreme Court Nominee
(Democrat - California) 01/31/17
“Evaluating Supreme Court nominees is among our most important responsibilities as senators and over the last few days we’ve seen the importance of an independent judiciary. I’ve repeatedly stated that the next justice must have respect for precedent, be within the mainstream and protect the fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution. Judge Gorsuch has a long record and it will take time to conduct a thorough review. “I firmly believe the Supreme Court must be a fair arbiter of the law—not simply another political body that makes decisions based on ideology or partisanship. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have played politics with this seat by refusing to hold courtesy meetings, hearings or even debate on Chief Judge Garland, who had an impeccable 20-year record of service. “I am deeply concerned that throughout his campaign the president promised to use litmus tests when choosing his nominee. Last October, when asked about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, then-candidate Trump said ‘That will happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.’ “Then tonight, President Trump declared, ‘I am a man of my word.’ That’s exactly what I’m afraid of. Judge Gorsuch voted twice to deny contraceptive coverage to women, elevating a corporation’s religious beliefs over women’s health care. “At a time when public trust in our institutions is at an all-time low and our country is bitterly divided, a thorough and fair review is vitally important.”

Sen. Kamala Harris ‏on Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination
(Democrat - California) 01/31/17
"I am troubled by the nomination of Judge Gorsuch and will fight to ensure the voice of the American people is heard in this process. The next justice will have a profound impact on money in politics, voting rights, immigrant and women's rights, and more. This SCOTUS seat belongs to the people -- and we need someone who will uphold our civil rights.

Sen. Feinstein Requests Delay on Sessions Vote, Links Nomination to Weekend Marches
(Democrat - California) 01/24/17
"This nomination is a very big deal. On Sunday, we received 188 pages of responses to questions submitted for the record following the Sessions hearing. ... In addition, we’ve been told that some members may have follow up questions they would like to submit....ensuring equal rights for all, upholding voting rights for all, demanding equal pay for equal work, maintaining worker’s rights and protecting our environment. It is these principles, these values, that the attorney general must defend. ... Many, many millions of Americans are deeply concerned about what the future will bring. That’s a hallmark of what happened this past Saturday in the march. The least we can do is tell them that we’re being as careful as possible in who we place in charge of making these important decisions. For every woman and man who marched over the weekend, we owe it to them."

Senate Judiciary Democrats to Jeff Sessions: Don’t Block Russia Hack Investigation
(Democrat - California) 01/17/17
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and all committee Democrats today called on Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), nominee for attorney general, to allow investigations of Russia hacking to proceed and to recuse himself from those proceedings. The letter poses two questions to Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the nominee to become attorney general: “Will you commit not to impede or shut down any FBI or Justice Department investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election?” “Will you commit to recuse yourself from any FBI or Justice Department investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election?” Full text of the letter follows:

Sen. Kamala Harris will vote against Jeff Sessions Attorney General nomination
(Democrat - California) 01/14/17
"I have deep concerns about Jeff Sessions ability to defend the rights of all Americans -- I will be voting against his confirmation. We need an Attorney General committed to equal rights for all, including women, people of color, and the LGBT community. It is clear after his confirmation hearings that person is not Jeff Sessions, and that is why I oppose his confirmation as AG. If you agree, please add your name to our petition calling on my Senate colleagues to oppose Sessions as well:

Sen. Cortez Masto Statement Opposing AG Nominee Jeff Sessions
(Democrat - California) 01/12/17
"As a former Attorney General and a former federal prosecutor, I take very seriously the important role that our nation’s top law enforcement officer plays in our system of government. That’s why I remain deeply concerned about the President-elect’s choice of Senator Sessions to lead the Department of Justice. I am troubled by the controversial and racially insensitive rhetoric Senator Sessions has used in the past, as well as his far-right positions on issues ranging from immigration and criminal justice reform to civil rights and voting rights. This is not personal – it is about his record and his views. As the next Attorney General, Senator Sessions would have enormous prosecutorial discretion, and his record in public office indicates to me that he often hasn’t recognized the humanity of the people hurt by his extreme positions, whether it’s undocumented immigrants or the African American community or LGBT Americans. After an ugly and divisive election season, many of my constituents in Nevada are fearful about what lies ahead. They deserve an Attorney General who they can trust to vigorously defend their rights and uphold our laws with impartiality. At a time when our nation needs to come together and heal, Senator Sessions is not the right choice to lead the DOJ and I cannot support this nomination."

Sens. Feinstein and Harris on need for two home-state Senator blue slips for circuit and district court nominees
(Democrat - California) 12/30/16
The blue slip is “an important historical tool that prevents the president from forcing a federal judge, U.S. attorney or U.S. marshal through the Senate,” and is “designed to ensure nominees are qualified and well-suited to serve their states,” Feinstein said in a statement Friday. Michael Troncoso, co-director of Harris’ Senate transition team, said, “If nominees for judge or U.S. attorney lack appropriate experience or have extreme views, that’s the reason you have a blue slip.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in ‘Judicial Emergency’
(Democrat - California) 12/29/16
Sen. Barbara Boxer said the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is facing a “judicial emergency” as she called for a Senate vote Tuesday on San Jose-based U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh’s nomination to the appellate court. As the new year rears its head, the 9th Circuit is facing a four-seat vacancy: Two are currently empty and two will become vacant when other judges assume senior status at the end of 2016.