All across the nation, Americans in quiet towns and boisterous cities are taking to the streets to fight for American values. They are protesting in the streets and calling their representatives. They are getting involved in local organizations, and they are organizing around the causes they support.
We know that American values are threatened when the president issues an order banning immigrants from the country based on their religion.
We know that American values are threatened when politicians try to break apart a health care system that has extended medical benefits to millions of Americans.
And we know that American values are threatened when a president tries to stack his government with billionaires and insiders who have a history of grinding working people into the dirt.
Yesterday something happened that is a threat to our American values. The President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court. For years now I repeated this warning. America's promise of equal justice under the law is in danger.
Over the last three decades as the rich have grown richer and the middle class have families have struggled, the scales of justice have also tilted, tilted in favor of the wealthy and the powerful. This is not an accident. It's part of a deliberate strategy to turn our courts into one more rigged game for folks at the top and its effects have been devastating.
Recent court decisions have protected giant business -- protected giant businesses from accountability, made it harder for people who have been injured or cheated to get a hearing, gutted long-standing laws protecting consumers who have been swindled, and unleashed a flood of secret money into our politics that's rapidly tilting the entire government in favor of the wealthy.
Billionaires and corporate giants have launched a full-scale attack on fair minded, mainstream judges. It's happened at every level of our judiciary, but the best example was the unprecedented blockade of Judge Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court.
Judge Garland was an obvious consensus nominee and a straight shooter who followed the law. So why block it? The problem was that Judge Garland's career didn't reflect a sufficient willingness to bend the law to suit the needs of the rich and powerful, and for that sin far right groups financed by big business interests spent millions of dollars attacking him to torpedo his nomination and keep that seat open.
But they did something else that is even more damaging. Far right groups also drew up a list of acceptable Supreme Court nominees, people who demonstrated that they were sympathetic to the rich and the powerful. Judge Neil Gorsuch made the cut, and his nomination is their reward.
Judge Gorsuch is intelligent and accomplished. He is polite and respectful and articulate, but make no mistake. His professional record which I have reviewed in detail clearly and consistently favors the interests of big corporations over workers, big corporations over consumers, and big corporations over pretty much anybody else.
Let's not mince words. The nomination of Judge Gorsuch is a huge gift to the giant corporations and wealthy individuals who have stolen a Supreme Court seat in order to make sure that the justice system works for them.
What I’m saying shouldn't be controversial. They haven't made a secret of what they were doing. This is exactly why Judge Gorsuch has been on their list for four months. He is the payoff for their multimillion dollar investment.
Throughout his professional career, Judge Gorsuch has shown a truly remarkable insensitivity to the struggles of working Americans and an eagerness to side with businesses that break the rules over workers who are seeking justice. Even before he became a judge, Judge Gorsuch famously argued in favor of limiting the ability of investors and shareholders to bring lawsuits when companies commit fraud, whining about how annoying it is for billionaire corporations to have to face their investors when they cheat them.
As a judge for more than a decade, he has twisted himself into a pretzel to make sure that the rules favor giant companies over workers and individual Americans. Let me just count some of the ways. He has sided with employers who deny wages, employers who improperly fire workers, employers who retaliate against whistle-blowers for misconduct. He's sided with employers who denied retirement benefits to their workers. He sided with big insurance companies against disabled workers who were denied benefits. He has ruled against workers in all kinds of discrimination cases. He's even argued that the rights of corporations outweigh the rights of the people working for them.
So, for example, allowing businesses to assert religious beliefs so they can limit their employees' access to health care. Listen to that one again. He thinks that a company can assert a religious belief and decide whether female employees get access to birth control. And let's be clear. That means a lot of employees will be living at the whim of their employers.
Judge Gorsuch has written dismissively about lawsuits to vindicate the rights of vulnerable people. Equal marriage, assisted suicide, keep those issues out of his courtroom. But he's willing to open the doors wide when big corporations show up in his court to challenge health and safety rules that they don't like or regulations to prevent them from polluting our air and water, poisoning our food, undermining our public safety, or just plain cheating people. When that happens, Judge Gorsuch is ready to go, to override the rules with his own views. On that score he is even more extreme than Justice Scalia.
This is exactly the type of Supreme Court Justice that giant corporations want, but they have never been quite so brazen about it. Spending millions to slime a consensus straight shooter nominee like Merrick Garland and steal a Supreme Court seat, then drawing up a public list of acceptable alternatives and handing it over to a billionaire President so he can do his buddies a favor, that's bold. That's bold and that is not how America is supposed to work.
Our courts are supposed to be neutral arbiters dispensing justice based on the facts and the law, not people chosen to advance the interests of those at the top.
Let's be clear. This fundamental principle might be more important today than it has ever been in modern history. Every day our new President finds more ways to demonstrate his hostility for an independent judiciary, for a civil society, and for the rule of law. That is precisely the reason that our Constitution gives us a neutral, independent judiciary. We don't need judges who have been handpicked for their willingness to cow tow with those -- to those with money, power and influence. We need justices who will stand up to those with money, power and influence.
Judge Gorsuch may occasionally write in vague terms about the importance of independent courts, but today, right now, that's simply not good enough. Now more than ever the United States needs a Supreme Court that puts the law first every single time. That means justices with a proven record of standing up for the rights of all Americans, civil rights, women's rights, LGBT rights and all the protections guaranteed by our laws.
We cannot stand down when American values and Constitutional principles are attacked.
We cannot stand down when the President of the United States hands our highest court over to the highest bidder, and that is why I will oppose Judge Gorsuch’s nomination.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield and I suggest the absence of a quorum.