Amy Klobuchar

Barrett Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement - Oct. 12, 2020

Amy Klobuchar
October 12, 2020
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Welcome Judge Barrett. This committee is gathered today for what I consider one of its most solemn duties and one that I take very seriously. Federal judges, Senators, the President of the United States, we all take an oath to uphold the Constitution. We make promises to do justice, to tell the truth — at its core. That’s what judges do, right? Figure out the truth, figure out justice.

My mom, a second-grade teacher, spent her life teaching little kids what was right or wrong, what was true or false. I still believe it matters, and so do the American people, but we are dealing with a president who doesn't think truth matters and he has allies in Congress, who in the past, defended our democracy but are now doing his bidding. Senators who clearly set out a precedent that the president in an election year should wait. That we should have an election and that then the people choose the president and the president chooses the nominee. That was your precedent, it has been said that the wheels of justice turn slowly, injustice on the other hand can move at lightning speed, as we are seeing here today. We cannot — and you watching at home should not — separate this hearing from the moment we are in and from the judge he is trying to rush through.

To respond to Senator Cruz: this isn't a rush to justice, this is a rush to put in a justice. A justice whose views are known and who will have a profound impact on your life. And yes, these policies that the court decides, they matter. Where you can go to school, who you can marry, decisions you can make about your own body, and yes, your health care. The President knows this.

We have a president who has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power after an election, every candidate does that, but not this guy. We have a president who has fired or replaced five inspector generals, Senator Grassley. Who has fired an attorney general, an FBI director, and is now going after their replacements. We have a president who divides our country each and every day, he has called our military suckers and losers, he's refused to condemn white supremacists and he has the gall to hold up a bible as a prop in front of a church instead of heeding its words to act justly. And now, he says this election will end up in court.

Why, Senator Cruz, does President Trump matter? He is putting the Supreme Court in place, in his words to quote, “look at the ballots” end quote. Well, I won't concede that this election is headed to the court because you know at home exactly what the President is up to. That's why you're voting, that's why you are voting in droves. Why are you voting? Well, you know that you're right. Your health, your health care is on the line. You know that they are trying to push through a justice who has been critical of upholding the Affordable Care Act and they're doing it in the middle of a pandemic and you can see here in this room the misplaced priorities of this Republican-run Senate and it's in your hands to change it.

Are they working to pass a bill to help Americans to get the testing they need to save their lives? Are they working to help the moms trying to balance a toddler on their lap while balancing a laptop on their desk? Are they trying to help our seniors, isolated, missing graduations and birthdays? Are they passing the bill the House passed that would help our economy? That's not the priority, instead they choose to do this. So, no, we cannot divorce this nominee and her views from the election we are in. We didn't choose to do this now, to plop a Supreme Court nomination hearing in the middle of an election, they did.

So, the reason people aren't going to fall for this is because it is so personal. The over 210,000 people who have died, the school canceled, the small business closures, the job you don't have, the degree you couldn't get. It’s personal to me because my husband got COVID early on. He ended up in the hospital for a week on oxygen with severe pneumonia and months after he got it, I find out the President knew it was airborne but he didn't tell us. We were cleaning off every surface in our house and my husband got it anyway. We didn't know and my dad, at 92 — he got it in his assisted living. I stood there outside his window in a mask and he looked so small and confused. He knew who our family was but he didn't know what was going on, I thought it was going to be the last time that I saw him. He miraculously survived but Marnie Jean, she didn’t.

Marnie was a rising star, the chairwoman of the Saint Paul School Board in just 31 years when COVID took her life. Her dad felt sick, she went with him to the hospital because he was scared and then she got sick, never got off a ventilator and died. The daughter among refugees, whose parents fled Laos to a refugee camp in Thailand before arriving in Minnesota. Marnie and her seven siblings grew up in St. Paul, their family — the American dream. This is who this virus has taken from us, someone who has left behind a mother and a father and seven siblings who loved her and someone who undoubtedly would have made the world a better place.

The President could have saved so many lives, instead he's been reckless; packing people in without masks for your nomination party, Judge Barrett. 35 people got sick, the President himself ends up in the hospital and when he leaves Walter Reed — still contagious — he defiantly takes off his mask and walks into the White House and then he lies and says the virus will magically go away.

The truth matters, and the truth is America, that this judicial nominee has made her view so clear and this President is trying to put her in a position of power to make decisions about your lives. The Affordable Care Act protects you from getting kicked off of your insurance, that’s on the line. The President has been trying to get rid of Obamacare since he got in power. John McCain went in and stopped it with that big thumbs down. Then they went and brought a case to the U.S. Supreme Court and they're now trying to stack the deck against you right now. The last time this was before the Court in a big way was when Justice Roberts — not exactly a blazing liberal — voted the same as Justice Ginsburg to uphold the Affordable Care Act, and this nominee, she criticized him.

America, this is about you, it's about these two girls up here; Evelyn and Mariah, identical twins from Cambridge, Minnesota, honor roll students, star athletes. They play in the softball team, one’s a pitcher, one's a catcher, they also play basketball. One of them got severe diabetes when she was very young. Does it matter which one? The pitcher, the catcher, they both deserve good health care, they get that with one stroke of a pen. One judge can decide if millions of Americans, including their family, would lose their insurance. One can judge can decide if millions of Americans can lose their right to keep their kids on their insurance until they're 26 years old. One judge can decide that if senior's prescription drugs, which already are too high, could soar even higher.

This is a judgeship that was held by an icon, who voted to protect your health care; Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A woman who never took no for an answer. When they told her a girl shouldn't go to law school, she graduated first in her class. And when they told her a man should argue landmark equal protection cases because maybe they'd have a better chance of winning, she did it herself and she won. She never gave up; she had her own hashtag well into her 80s: the notorious RBG. And her last fervent wish was that a new president, the winner of this election, would pick her replacement. When you look at her opinions you realize she wasn't just writing for today, she was writing for tomorrow.

To the women of America, we have come so far and in the name of RBG, we should not go backwards. As the rabbi said at Justice Ginsburg's memorial in the capitol, her dissents, her strong words, when she would disagree with the Republican appointed justices, her words were never cries of defeat, they were blueprints for the future. So to all Americans, this hearing — whatever these guys try to do, whatever you hear from me, it will not be a cry of defeat, it will instead be our blueprint for the future.

Yes, Judge, I think this hearing is a sham, I think it shows real messed up priorities from the Republican Party, but I am here to do my job, to tell the truth. To all Americans, we don't have some clever procedural way to stop the sham, to stop them from rushing through a nominee but we have a secret weapon that they don't have; we have Americans who are watching, who work hard every day, believe in our country and the rule of law. Whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or independent they know what this President and the Republican Party are doing right now is very wrong. In fact, 74 percent of Americans think we should be working on a COVID relief package right now instead of this.

Let me tell you a political secret, I doubt that it will be a brilliant cross-examination that's going to change this judge's trajectory this week, no, it is you. It is you calling Republican Senators and telling them enough is enough, telling them it is personal, telling them they have their priorities wrong, so do it. And it is you voting, even when they try to do everything to stop you, it is you making your own blueprint for the future, instead of crying defeat. So, do it. This isn't Donald Trump's country, it is yours. This shouldn't be Donald Trump's judge; it should be yours.
Klobuchar, A.J. [PBS News Hour].(2020, October 12). WATCH: Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s full opening statement in Barrett Supreme Court confirmation hearing []. Retrieved on January 27, 2021 from