October 26, 2020

Video: Kaine Delivers Senate Floor Speech on Opposition to Judge Barrett Nomination

You can watch the full speech here

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine delivered a speech on the Senate floor speaking out against the rushed nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. In his remarks, Kaine shared his belief that the Senate should focus on passing COVID relief rather than breaking precedent to rush a nominee who could help take away health care from millions of Americans in the middle of a pandemic.

“Why rush this nomination, ignoring Senate precedent to do so, breaking your own word to do so, violating health protocols to do so, rather than spending our time providing comfort to families who are hurting and businesses that are struggling and closing?  There could be no good answer to this question. But the actual answer is particularly heartless. The effort to rush the Barrett nomination is driven by the Republican desire to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” Kaine said.  

“This rushed Supreme Court nomination not only ignores Americans’ demand for help at a time of maximum need.  It is done in a way that will likely increase their suffering, with full knowledge that that is the case. And I will not play any part in an effort of such calculated cruelty… I will oppose this nomination,” Kaine continued.

Speech as prepared for delivery:

I rise in opposition to the nomination of Judge Barrett to the United States Supreme Court.   This process shows how misplaced the priorities of the Senate are at this moment in time.   

There is an epic national crisis that we should be addressing—a pandemic that is raging and causing death and economic distress at a massive scale.   And yet the Senate has been sitting on its hands since late April.   When the Senate passed its 4th and final piece of COVID legislation then, reinfusing dollars into the small business protection program, the death toll in the U.S. was approaching 63,000.    We have done nothing since and the death toll is now approaching 230,000. 

The number of new Coronavirus cases is now reaching record peaks.  The Saturday headline from the Washington Post, the most read daily newspaper in Virginia, says it all.  “U.S. hits highest daily number of coronavirus cases since pandemic began.”    Papers all around the country carried similar headlines. 

Ten months into this crisis, there is no national plan or strategy for dealing with it.   The Chief of Staff to President Trump admitted defeat yesterday, claiming that “we are not going to control the pandemic.”  It can be controlled with testing, contact tracing, isolation, and a commitment to mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing. That is how other nations are managing the pandemic.    But the Trump Administration is surrendering.   They now tell us that we will just have to wait for vaccines and treatments.    But Americans cannot afford to wait. 

The economic devastation accompanying this health crisis is catastrophic.   The unemployment rate is 7.9%, 65% greater than when President Trump took office.    And that number understates the magnitude of employment losses as millions have dropped out of the labor force to care for children, or parents or other loved ones affected by this tragedy.   Women have been hit disproportionately in this forced exodus from the job market.    President Trump’s job losses are now the worst of any American president on record.

And yet the Senate is doing nothing!   The largest public health crisis in 100 years, the most significant economic collapse since the Great Depression and the Senate has done nothing to provide relief for 6 months! This is inexcusable.

The House acted by passing the HEROES Act in May.   I knew the Senate Republican majority would not simply embrace a Democratic bill from the House, but I believed they would do something.  But the Senate majority would not even put out a proposal until the very end of July, just days before some CARES Act benefits expired and the Senate went into a month-long recess.  And it was not until mid September that the Senate GOP finally brought up a vote on what all called a “skinny bill.”   1/7th the size of the House proposal and dramatically less than what even the White House thinks is necessary.    

That bill contained no rent assistance as millions face eviction, no mortgage assistance as millions face default or foreclosure, no food assistance as millions face hunger.    No aid for the state and local governments whose falling revenues jeopardize their ability to employ so many of the health and public safety workers we know to be essential.    

Democrats opposed the skinny bill in the hopes that rejecting a partisan proposal would lead to a bipartisan breakthrough.  That’s just what happened in March with the CARES Act.    We voted down a partisan and paltry package and, days later, found a robust bipartisan bill to help Americans.

Our no vote on the skinny bill did jumpstart serious negotiation between the White House and Democratic leaders.   And the negotiations saw the two sides growing closer.    But there was a problem—the Senate Majority does not want a bill.   We could get there, but last week the New York Times and other publications made it plain that no deal was forthcoming.   Why?   “McConnell Moves to Head Off Stimulus Deal as Pelosi Reports Progress.”

This is what we should be working on right now.   But the Senate majority abandoned their commitment to helping Americans through this emergency on September 18, the day that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died.  And since then, rushing Judge Barrett to confirmation has been all that matters to them.

No matter that Americans need COVID relief.

No matter that the rush to complete a confirmation in one month—from nomination to vote—is unprecedented in modern times. 

No matter that the Senate Majority broke its word to their colleagues and the American public that a Supreme Court vacancy occurring in a Presidential election year would not be filled until after the election to “let the people decide.” 

No matter that the rushed nomination jeopardized the health of attendees at the President’s superspreading White House announcement and even staff and members of the Senate.

And my question is why?   Why rush this nomination, ignoring Senate precedent to do so, breaking your own word to do so, violating health protocols to do so, rather than spend our time providing comfort to families who are hurting and businesses that are struggling and closing?   

There could be no good answer to that question.    But the actual answer is particularly heartless.    The effort to rush the Barrett nomination is driven by the Republican desire to destroy the Affordable Care Act.    This has been the goal for ten years.   The Republican majority, particularly during the Trump presidency, has done everything they can—in Congress, in administrative sabotage, and in the courts—to destroy the ACA and take health care away from millions.   Congressional Republicans even engineered a complete shutdown of the American government in the fall of 2013 to try and achieve their goal.   But they have failed.    More states, even Republican states, have embraced the ACA.   It has grown more popular with the American public.    But by rushing the Barrett nomination, President Trump and the Senate majority see one last chance.

In two weeks, the Supreme Court will hear the case of California v. Texas, a coordinated effort by Republican Attorneys General, the Trump Justice Department, and many in Congress to destroy the ACA.  And the death of Justice Ginsburg, who often voted to uphold provisions of the ACA as an appropriate exercise of Congressional legislative power, offered a tantalizing chance to select as her successor someone who has written critically of the Act and of the Supreme Court’s 2012 opinion upholding the law.    If she can be on the Court by November 10, she can participate in the case.     And getting her there matters more to the Senate majority than helping the millions who are suffering during this crisis.

And if they are suffering now, imagine how the suffering would have been magnified without the ACA.   Millions without insurance to help them through this health crisis.   Millions of young people not able to be on family policies.   Millions turned away from coverage due to pre-existing health conditions.   Millions facing termination of insurance as COVID related health expenses run them up against lifetime coverage limits. 

This rushed Supreme Court nomination not only ignores Americans’ demands for help at a time of maximum need.    It is done in a way that will likely increase their suffering, with full knowledge that such is the case.    And I will not play any part in an effort of such calculated cruelty. 

This vote will hurt this body, hurt the Supreme Court, and hurt millions of people in crisis who are struggling and even dying as the Senate ignores their needs.   Many of our Republican leaders won’t even wear masks.     They refuse to cover their noses and mouths to protect themselves and those around them.  But this soulless process shows that they are glad to cover their eyes and ears to better block out the pleas of a suffering citizenry.

I will oppose this nomination.

 

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