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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  March 3, 2016 9:21am-10:01am EST

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district court judges. theyou want to talk about the bn rule? the republicans have allowed five district court judges. come on. let's get this out of partisanship. by any standard whatsoever there's been a republican president and democratic controlled congress, senate, we have treated that republican president far better than they have treated democratic presidents. and, but they do here because of the supreme court with five republican appointed majority members of the supreme court are bringing down the approval rating of the supreme court, the american people, it must be president obama's fault, even though those five were nominated and approved before president
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obama was even in the presidency, that goes too far. that goes too far. that is through the looking glass. that is alice in wonderland. >> the senate returns in about 10 minutes to take up a bill to combat air with an opioid drug abuse. yesterday while considering amendments, new york senator kirsten gillibrand recount other she received from a family who lost a son to an overdose. >> madam president speak with the senator from new york. >> i rise to speak in favor of an imminent number 33 5-4 eric ifalpa cement with my colleague from west virginia senator capito to of been a leader in our fight against opioid addiction. the opioid addiction problem in our country is severe. it's a growing and it's not going to end unless congress comes together to pass a law
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that targets the root causes of this epidemic. best dates are simply too high to ignore. last year alone in communities all across our country, including many in new york, 1.4 million more americans started up using opioids. every day, 44 more people are killed by an overdose. we have seen enough data to know that i opioid addiction problem is spiraling out of control. the opioid addiction is destroying too many lives in our cities, too many families in our rural communities, and too many young men and women in our suburbs. madam president, i wan wanted te start of one of my constituents are his name is sean murdock sean was there was special and gifted young man. he was cocaptain of his high school football team and has
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that rare ability to bring people together and to connect with anyone. sean didn't get if you're on the football team or if you have a disability. he was always the first one there to help you when you needed it. after high school, sean loved working with his hands so he got a good job as a construction worker. one day, sean broke his arm. sean's a doctor gave him a prescription for oxycodone, a powerful opioid to mask the pain. but by the time his prescription ran out, sean was already addicted and he couldn't shake the addiction no matter how hard he tried. he started using heroin, tried to quit many times, but the system failed. the system failed him at nearly every step of the way. and last fall, sean overdosed and died. i'd like to tell you is a story from the perspective of his parents. my hometown paper, the times
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union, is an incredible story about his wife. i can imagine the pain they suffer as i have two young sons. for the murdochs they have many questions that very few answers, and they been lost in a fog of greece since their son to death two months ago. the times union road, these pairs want to speak out in john's memory to reclaim what heroin stole from them an in the hope that it might help other parents struggling with a children's addiction. the father said, sean did not die in vain. we tried our best to save him but it wasn't enough. his mother walked over, embraced her son and spoke soothing words to sean's older brother. the father buried his head in his hands but there was a tableau of sorrow we've seen far too often. when their son spiraled down into addiction, his parents
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could see that something was wrong. he lost weight your he was a distant, fidgety. he nodded off at the dinner table. his father found a syringe in the bathroom and confronted him. sean said to his dad, dad, i'm sick, i need help. this is not me. i don't want to be like this. papert told their story to our paper. the paper says it was the revolving door of failure, detox, intensive outpatient care, relapse. he did not qualify for the most intensive and costly as level of care inpatient created. they den did not do because he s not homicidal or suicidal and had a safe home department. they said quote it was a never ending battle with insurance companies. they treated him like -- imagine being a parent and going through this with your son into
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treatment centers and treatment centers. when sean finally died he was in the best care. he was in a treatment center. when he called his mother, he said, mom, i've got to go. i love you very much. he went into the bathroom and he overdosed. sean did leave his parents final thoughts. no one before he died he thanked them for their unconditional love. and as they supported him through a long road of misery he said to them, you did everything right. now i don't know how a parent can hea do those words and think they did everything right, but i can tell you as a senator that the u.s. congress is not doing everything right. too many parents are telling me stories about their children who have died, and for too many patients, they are being prescribed opioids like percocet
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and vicodin and oxycontin for acute pain. they get prescribed this medication for getting a wisdom tooth out, for a broken wrist. and medicine that they really only need for two or three days, but why in heaven's name are they sent home with a dose of 30 oxycodone pills? what happens to those pills? are they given to kids at a party? are they sold to affix? we know there's a huge issue with how prescriptions are being made, how much medicine is being given patience for this acute care. and right now there are no guidelines, no guidelines given to doctors. on the build we create that guideline. we need a guideline for the cdc. our amendment is very simple
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trick that would require the cdc to issue clear guidelines to our medical community when it is appropriate to prescribe opiates. instead of something not addictive like extra strength tylenol. our and minutes and requires the to issue these clear guidelines or how much opioid medication our medical professionals can prescribe without putting a patient at high risk for addiction to these guidelines are already being done for chronic pain so they should give them also for acute pain. we need to do something here. as members of congress we need to respond to the suffering of so many of our constituents. it is truly an epidemic, and it needs a response. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. >> today's senate session about to begin with continuing on the opioid addiction bill, a bill that would continue authorizing,
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authorized grants for education, prevention and treatment of heroin and prescription drug abuse, and minutes are expected to be offered. votes may occur throughout the day. also this morning house republicans unveiling their 2017 budget. speaker ryan will speak about that. , dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. o god, you are the strength of our lives, use us to tell of your wondrous works. inspiring others to glorify your name in the earth and to depend on you in the welter and variety of events we encounter each day.
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may they trust you to supply all of our needs, responding with gratitude to your generous mercies. today, give our senators an eternal perspective on the myriad issues they face. infuse their hearts with faith, sharpen their minds with truth, and renew their spirits with courage. bless the members of their staff who sacrifice so much for freedom's cause. we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america
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and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? today we have an opportunity to take another step forward on the comprehensive addiction and recovery act, cara. a critically important and bipartisan bill to address the growing prescription opioid and
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heroin epidemic. as we've worked through debate on this legislation, we've heard numerous stories from across our nation about the toll this crisis is taking on americans. and today i want to take a moment to address the difference cara can make in my home state of kentucky which has been among the hardest hit by this epidemic. more people are dying from drug overdoses than car crashes in the commonwealth, and that's largely due to prescription opioids and heroin. we know that education and prevention programs can help reduce the number of people who experience drug addiction and overdose. one program i've been proud to support is the drug create community frahm which provides lg funding to local communities so they can promote education and awareness about the dangers of substance abuse. i wrote letters of support on behalf of oldham and carter
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counties which have both seestled -- received drug free community grants. this helps them train community members, parents and school officials in preventing school substance abuse. there are other programs in cara that can help build upon these efforts through community-based coalition grants that address local drug crises. education is incredibly important and it's great to see what we're achieving on that front. but for kentuckians and americans currently struggling with addiction, the cycle can be very difficult to break. we've seen a staggering number of people lose their lives to overdose. and we know more must be done to stop that terrible trend. fortunately, groups like the harm reduction coalition are providing overdose prevention and training for drug treatment programs, recovery advocates and health departments across
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kentucky and several other states. through state demonstration and first responder grants, the group says cara can give them a stronger foundation to move from training to action. prescription drug monitoring programs are also instrumental in saving lives, and i've been a strong supporter of kentucky's own program called caspar. last fall i received confirmation from the c.d.c. that the kentucky injury prevention and research center have been awarded funds to combat the prescription drug and heroin epidemic in kentucky. these funds are being used to improve caspar as well as target interventions in counties like fayette and campbell, counties that have seen some of the highest rate of overdose deaths in the common well. the bill where considering places an emphasis on prescription drug monitoring programs and will strengthen efforts already in place.
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perhaps one of the most heartbreaking aspects of this epidemic is its effect on newborns. just last year i sponsored the protecting our infants act to address this specific issue and was proud to see it become law. i worked to protect these fragile lives -- our work to protect these fragile lives continues with the legislation we have before us today. cara would improve treatment for l pregnant and postpartum women by reauthorizing an existing grant program and enhance a l pilot program for treatment options for this population. cara can make positive strides in terms of keeping communities safe too. it would bolster the efforts of law enforcement through the authorization of grant programs for collaborative investigative units. what that means is kentucky's outstanding drug task forces stand to benefit when it comes to investigating illegal trafficking and distribution of
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heroin and prescription opioids. i strongly support each of these efforts to intensify the commonwealth's fight against the prescription opioid and heroin crisis. mr. president, because of efforts like those i mentioned to strengthen education and treatment programs, improve prescription drug monitoring tools and enhance law enforcement efforts, differences are already being made in the lives of many kentuckians. with the passage of cara, we can build upon these and other initiatives that can help shore up the fight against prescription opioid and heroin addiction. kim moser director of the office of drug control policy says cara will address the growing needs of kentucky communities and expand treatment resources for those suffering. she says cara will allow individual families and communities to heal from this scourge. so i want to thank senator grassley, the chairman of the judiciary committee, for working with senators to move this bill by voice vote in a timely
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manner. and i want to also acknowledge senator portman and senator ayotte for their responsiveness to this urgent problem and for their dedication to advancing the bipartisan bill that is before us now. remember although this is an authorization bill, congress has already appropriated $400 million, funds that are still available today for opioid-specific programs. we'll have more opportunities for funding through the next appropriations process, but it's important we act on this legislation right now. cara will bring us closer to ending a national epidemic. it will help lift communities like those in kentucky out of the throes of prescription opioid and heroin addiction. it will help save lives. i look forward to joining my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to support this important legislation.
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mr. reid: as senators, we pride ourselves in making sure that we vote when we are required to vote, and we're always very aware of when the votes occur and what happens on votes. i missed a vote yesterday at 4:00. my staff has told me that the clerks here are concerned because they did something wrong. i missed the vote. it was my fault. no one's fault but my own. i had a doctor's appointment at 4:30 and i got here too late. so everyone should understand this. i've missed other votes and i've already announced how i would have voted how i would have voted, wouldn't have changed the outcome of the votes. all the clerks that serve us so well all the time shouldn't worry at all about minot being recorded on that vote.
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calm down, everybody. i don't care. you shouldn't care. mr. president, i've heard my friend, the republican leader, last couple of days talk about a good bill we have here. he's right, it's something that's important to do. we have this opioid problem sweeping the nation in nevada, all other states, all the other 49 states have a problem. i understand the importance of this legislation. but i only wish the republicans joined with us yesterday in voting for the shaheen l amendment which would have provided real money to meet the requirements of this legislation if it passes. i also know that my friend keeps talking about the money that we've already appropriated. we did it because there was an emergency then. there's one now. the programs that we have appropriated money for are
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totally separate and apart from this legislation. that's why shaheen offered her amendment and it was emergency funding that we badly need. so it's too bad that my friends on the other side of the aisle are talking about let's take money from other programs and fund this program. that isn't how it should be. this is a scourge sweeping the country, and we have programs in this new legislation that need to be funded. otherwise they won't have any meaning whatsoever to the problem we have facing the country. a number of democrats have also tried to offer amendments. to this point they have been able to offer one amendment and vote on one amendment. we've had more than 60 amendments filed. i know we're not going to have the ability to debate and vote on 60 amendments. but my friend, the republican leader, has been out here boasting time and time again about this robust amendment process. and it's only talk, we haven't
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had a robust amendment process. i wouldn't think robust would be having seven or eight amendments. we would accept a new definition of robust, i guess, if we got to offer a few amendments. we should be able to offer amendments on this legislation. so i hope the senate will be able to have a full and open amendment process on this legislation. if not, we will not be able to proceed fooshed -- forward on this legislation. too bad, legislation if not funded properly, we should pass it. we're not going to fund it if we get jammed and that's what happened. mr. president, listen to these words: fair, respectful, deliberate, and thorough. these are the words the senior united states senator from iowa, senator grassley, once described the way the supreme court nomination should be considered by the senate. fair, respectful, deliberate and
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thorough. in june 2010, he said something more. and i quote -- "i've always been of the opinion that the senate needs to conduct a comprehensive careful review of supreme court nominees. it is important that the nominee get a fair, respectful and also deliberative hearing. that same month he also said in june 2010 -- quote -- "i'm committed to ensuring that this process is fair and respectful, but also thorough. the constitution tasks our senate with conducting a competent review of the nominee's record and qualifications. fair, respectful, and thorough." i don't think refusing to meet with a nominee, refusing to hold a hearing for a nominee, refusing to hold a vote on a nominee is fair, respectful, deliberative and certainly not thorough. he was not yet chairman of the judiciary committee when the senior senator from iowa made
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those comments. but here's what he said in addition to that. as we've noted, he said on more than one occasion that will the constitution tasks our senate with conducting a comprehensive review of the nominee's record and qualifications. he made those statements when he wasn't chairman of the committee. now he's chairman of the committee, a committee he served for decades. now he sets the standard. he runs that big, powerful committee. he has chosen an approach that could not be further from fair, respectful, deliberative and thorough that he urged on more than one occasion. instead of exercising his once respected independence, my friend, the senior senator from iowa, has taken his marching orders from the republican leader and refusing to give president obama's supreme court
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nominee a meeting, a hearing, or a vote. and within an hour after justice scalia's death was announced, the republican leader hijacked the supreme court nomination process in the senate by declaring the republicans would not consider the president's nominee. then the republican leader decided to seize control of the judiciary committee. i don't know if he twisted arms, but it certainly conveys the message that i want to convey. twisted the arms of the senior senator from iowa and its committee members to get them to forfeit their independence and fall in line. behind closed doors, the republican leader compelled the 11 republicans who make up the majority of the committee on judiciary to sign a loyalty oath. this loyalty oath, which abdicated the role of this once-dignified committee, took the form of a letter promising to follow the republican
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leader's demands and block consideration of president obama's supreme court nominee. earlier this week, the senior senator from iowa, senator grassley, discussed the arm twisting that took place. during the interview on tuesday on an nbc affiliate in iowa, he was asked whether undue influence had been inserted by the republican leadership. this is what he said -- "some have reluctance but all signed." again, quote -- "some had reluctance, but they all signed" when asked the question had undue influence been exerted by republican leadership. so i don't blame senator grassley's colleagues for their reluctance. the judiciary committee once had a proud history of independence and transparency. this committee is 200 years old. one of the 11 committees that was formed when this body came into being. so it's understandable their reluctance.
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it's understandable the republican committee members won't abdicate their independence. i don't blame those senators for being reluctant to follow the republican leaders' orders for refusal to do their jobs. i don't blame them for their rerubbing tans to banish the independence of the judiciary committee's past. ensuring this once-powerful, independent, strong committee, repetition is -- reputation is nothing but a memory. so i wish the committee republicans had not been more reluctant -- i'm sorry -- had been more reluctant to sign onto the cornyn-grassley letter, a pledge not to do their jobs, and it appears most voters do also think that they should not have signed the letter. according to a new cnn poll that came out last night, two-thirds of republicans want hearings on the president's supreme court nominee. almost 70%. senate republicans pledged to obstruct doesn't even make sense to the republicans' own base.
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the senior senator of iowa's blind adherence to the dictates of leadership doesn't stop there. the chairman of the judiciary committee was too intimidated to even meet with president obama without the republican leader's consent. he refused to go to the white house without the republican leader by his side. when all finally did meet with president obama on tuesday, the republican leader, the democratic leader, chairman of the judiciary committee and the ranking member of the judiciary committee. at that meeting, the chairman wouldn't commit to meeting the nominee even then. holding hearings, he wouldn't do that. he wouldn't give the nominee a vote, as we told the president. this is not what senator grassley advocated before his party assumed the majority. in january, 2015, the senator from iowa came to the senate floor and said, and i quote -- "we must get back to what we call in the senate regular order i would say do things the way
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madison intended." close quote. so everything the chairman has done since assuming the role would counter what madison has intended and obviously what the senior senator from iowa had intended. allowing 11 republican judiciary committeemen -- and they are all men -- to decide on behalf of 100 senators and 300 million americans that they will not even meet, hold a hearing or a vote on the supreme court nominee is certainly not regular order. it's about as irregular order as you can have. given the opportunity to preside over a fair process, the chairman chose blind obeidians to his party -- blind obedience to his party leaders instead. nothing that the judiciary chairman has done in the wake of the supreme court vacancy can be identified as anything other than irregular order, not regular order. working behind closed doors and becoming -- is becoming a theme for this judicial committee. he sought to move the committee markup scheduled for today, a meeting that normally takes
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place in full view of the public, behind closed doors. everyone, think about that. this hearing has been scheduled for a long time. he didn't bother to have it -- a republican hearing. he wants to do it secretly. when democrats objected, the chairman postponed the meeting altogether. no public hearing, closed door hearing, immigrants objected, so he just canceled the meeting. this isn't transparency. this is obstruction and chaos. even republicans agree -- or at least some of them. the junior senator from west virginia said last week, and i quote -- "do i worry that this would make the senate look dysfunctional? here's what he said. that's a slight worry for me. it may be a slight worry for the senator from west virginia, but it's a huge worry for the american people. here's what she said. i will quote again -- "do i
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worry that this would make the senate look dysfunctional j that's a slight worry for me," she said. maybe a slight worry for the senator from west virginia, but it's not a slight worry for the american people. it's a big, huge worry for the people of west virginia. the good news is this can all be remedied very quickly. all my friend from iowa needs to do is use the authority he had as the judiciary committee chair to give the president's nominee a meeting and a hearing. this would be what iowa deserves, this would be what this country deserves. all he needs to do is live up to his own words and be fair, respectful, deliberative and thorough. simply put, he needs to stop blindly following the republican leader and just do his job. would the chair announce the business of the day? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of senate bill 524 which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 369,
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s. 524, a bill to authorize the attorney general to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: mr. president, the year was 1936. president franklin roosevelt had just been re-elected with an overwhelming majority. he decided he had had enough of the u.s. supreme court. they had been striking down some of the key pieces of legislation in his new deal package, and so he came up with a bold plan in february of 1937. that bold plan was to add new justices to the supreme court, enough new justices to tip the balance his way. he presented this plan to change the supreme court for his political purposes to a democratic congress and a democratic united states senate. believing with his big
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re-election majority and the fact that most of the members of congress had supported his new deal agenda, that they would stand by him when it came to changing the supreme court so that it would start ruling his way. he was wrong. what happened then was that members of the united states senate decided to stand up to their president and to stand up for the constitution. a little-known senator from arizona, henry ashe herst, was the chairman of the senate judiciary committee. he deliberately delayed the f.d.r. court-packing proposal to a point where when it was finally called it was overwhelmingly defeated. think about that. in the context of our current debate about filling this supreme court vacancy created by the untimely death of justice scalia. in that case in 1937, the senate judiciary committee and its chairman stood up for the constitution first over and
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above even the president of their own political party. this was a popular president, and yet they believed that the constitution was more important than any political issue when it came to the new deal. so where are we today? we're in a situation where we have a vacancy on the supreme court. the court still continues to hear cases of great historic moment. yesterday, the case involving abortion, and i'm sure in the weeks ahead even more controversial issues, and it's a court that is at least limited by the fact that there are only eight justices. in many instances, this court is likely to end up with a tie, a decision which doesn't decide the law but leaves it still unresolved. so what is our responsibility? this senate at this time as we reflect on the senate of 1937?
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well, you only have to turn to the united states constitution, a constitution which each of us, each and every one of us as senators, democrat and republican, stood in the well, swore to uphold. the second article in this constitution relates to the powers of the presidency. in this book, it's only three pages, but the people who wrote the constitution, our founding fathers, tried to put in those three pages the critically important elements to make sure that our democracy would continue. they tried to envision the possibilities and to authorize branches of government to do certain things. in article 2, section 2, when it comes to the powers of the president, it says he shall have the power by and with the advice and consent of the senate, and he shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of the senate shall appoint judges of the supreme court. did it say he may appoint?
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no. the language is explicit. he shall appoint. and with the advice and consent of the senate shall fill the vacancies on the supreme court. so what faces us today? an announcement by the republican leadership, senator mcconnell, within hours of the announcement of the death of justice scalia, that for the first time in the history of the united states senate, for the first time in our nation's history republicans have announced they will not only refuse to fill this vacancy, they will not even allow a hearing on a presidential nominee. and senator mcconnell went a step further and said he will not even meet with the nominee offered by the president to fill this vacancy. that is a clear violation of the constitutional responsibility which this senate has. the constitution doesn't require us to approve any nominee.
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no, it's advice and consent, not consent only. we can certainly vote no if we feel that vote is warranted, but the constitution is very clear that we can't walk away from a constitutional responsibility when it comes to a vacancy on the supreme court. if the senate republicans have their way, this vacancy on the supreme court will continue on until the next calendar year. it will be the longest vacancy on the supreme court since the civil war when this nation was torn apart. if there was any excuse in those days for not filling the vacancy, there is no excuse today. there is the argument made let the people decide. let the people decide in the next election who the next supreme court justice would be, but it ignores the obvious, there is a sitting president elected for four years with the constitutional authority that every president has, and one of those authorities is to fill this vacancy on the supreme court. they argue well, the people will
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decide in november what will happen next year. i might remind them the people decided in the year 2012 by a margin of five million votes that barack obama would be president of the united states, not for three years, not for three years and two months, but for four years. and to argue that he is somehow now unable, unwilling, cannot be called on to exercise his presidential authority flies in the face of reality, a reality which most republicans will readily concede, at least in private. well, the republicans think they are winning this debate. i think they're losing. they think their let the people decide approach to this thing is really carrying the day. i think our approach to this, saying to our republican colleagues do your job is carrying the day. how is this playing in peoria, illinois? i want to read from an editorial in the february 28 edition of "the peoria journal star." i quote -- "the most worthless
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congress in memory became more so last week with senate republicans doubling down on their decision not even to hold hearings for any obama nominee to the u.s. supreme court to fill the scalia vacancy." they went on to say -- "even as awful as congress is, it's not often that its members combine dereliction of constitutional duty -- see article 2, section , the aversion to tough decisions in an election year in one fell swoop. so senate republicans have done this here. not only have they unconstitutionally changed a president's term from four years to three years, not only are they renouncing their advice and consent rule, not only are they effectively suggesting the constitution be amended to popularly elect supreme court justices, but even more lame are the lengths the republicans went to in order to rationalize their decision." no more excuses. the senate judiciary committee in the senate should do its job.
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when the president submits a nominee, we should give that nominee a fair and thorough hearing, a fair respectful and thorough hearing, as one republican said over and over again, in full view of the american people and then vote. fair warning to my senate republicans. they say the american people should decide. they will decide. they'll decide in november that the republicans in the senate should do their job. i yield the floor. mr. leahy: will the senator yield for a question? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, as the senator may well recall, he was here when i was chairman of the judiciary committee in 2001, during president bush's administration. the ranking member was senator hatch. we put together an agreement about how the committee would consider supreme court nominees. we wrote the judiciary committee's traditional practice


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