Casey, Cornyn, Leahy, Durbin

Executive Session (Ross Nomination)

Senator Casey: (4:00 p.m.)

  • Spoke on Black History Month.
    • "I rise today as I have every year that I've been in the Senate, which is quite a long time now the last 10 years going into 11, to give some remarks in commemoration of Black History Month. The way I have done that and the way that our office has done it is to recognize a special figure in my home state of Pennsylvania, an individual that we're very proud of. Today we honor Dr. Constance E. Clayton, a trailblazer figure whose career in education positively impacted the lives of thousands of children in Philadelphia and whose work continues to pay dividends in the city public schools to this day. Throughout her long career as a teacher and administrator in the Philadelphia school district, Dr. Clayton never lost sight of her mission. In her words - quote - 'the children come first.' A product of Philadelphia public schools, Dr. Clayton became the first African American and the first woman to serve as superintendent of the Philadelphia school district. This Black History Month we celebrate Dr. Clayton's place in that history, but as we do, we should also ask ourselves if we are living up to her legacy, if we are putting the children first, all children everywhere first?"


Senator Cornyn: (4:21 p.m.)

  • Spoke on executive nominations.
    • "We have a lot more Cabinet posts that remain vacant in the executive branch because our friends across the aisle have decided that that somehow serves their political interests, but it doesn't serve the public interest. It doesn't serve the country's interest to have a brand-new administration without the ability of the president to pick and choose the people he wants to help him govern the country. It just creates more problems, and it also prevents us from getting on with the other important business of the Congress, working together with this president to try to move the country forward in so many important ways. I am glad we'll actually consider Congressman Zinke's nomination for the Department of Interior later this evening, but we're going to have to go through this arduous process, this procedural process of cloture and post-cloture time burning before we can actually vote on this qualified nominee."
  • Spoke on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
    • "It's common practice for Supreme Court nominees, reflecting the judicial ethics of not deciding cases before they are actually presented, to decline to answer those sort of speculative questions. Justice Ginsburg, who the minority leader clearly respects, made this point eloquently, and the Supreme Court nominees have adhered to the norm ever since. And following the well-conceived practices developed by people like Justice Ginsburg of declining to answer questions about how would you decide this case if it comes before the Supreme Court, certainly if that is the rule that she would embrace, then that ought to be good enough for Judge Gorsuch as well. I think it reflects the fact that our friends across the aisle who are looking for something to find to complain about with Judge Gorsuch simply can't find anything, and so they are creating this false choice of asking him to decide cases before he even assumes the bench on the Supreme Court, which clearly is unethical for any judge to do because judges aren't politicians running on a platform. A judge's job is to decide the case according to the law and the Constitution. And how can you possibly know before the case is presented what the facts might be or how the issue might be presented to the court?"


Senator Leahy: (4:35 p.m.)

  • Spoke on Russia.
    • "Now, reports indicate that the Trump officials were in repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials during this time. This comes on the heels of the president's national security advisor who had to resign after he provided misleading details on conversations he had with the Russian ambassador concerning U.S. sanctions. But there's a lot we still don't know, including the extent of the contacts. Who directed them? Were there people who at one point or another left the Trump campaign were involved? Whether there was collusion, and of course the obvious question, what did the president know and when did he know it? The American people deserve to know the facts. They deserve a full and fair investigation free from any political influence. The White House has already demonstrated it's not going to respect the independence of this investigation. The fact that the White House chief of staff attempted to use the FBI in violation of Justice Department policies to suppress news reports about Russian contacts reveals why we really can't trust the White House to play by the rules, and of course the rules are very, very clear. For these reasons I have called on Attorney General Sessions to step aside on this issue, to appoint a special counsel to conduct an independent investigation."


Senator Durbin: (4:45 p.m.)

  • Spoke on Russia.
    • "I couldn't agree with you more we need an independent, transparent investigation of this Russian invasion into the body politic of America, an effort to subvert our sovereignty that was made by a country that is not our friend and has made at a time when they were trying to influence the outcome of the election. I just wanted to note for my colleague and friend from Vermont that over the break I visited Poland and Lithuania and Ukraine. And in Poland it was interesting. They put up with the notion of Putin's interference on a daily basis, the most frightening prospect is of course the movement of military forces, which we hope never occurs but they look as a very real threat. But they have what they call the hybrid war. They said it isn't just the military. It's also his cyber-attacks on our country and it's also his propaganda on our country. One of the Polish leaders asked me a question. We've been wondering, senator, if the United States is not willing to confront Russia with its invasion of your sovereignty and your presidential election, will you be willing to stand up for your NATO allies if there's an effort, an aggression by Putin? Will you be willing to stand up against Russia in those times? I think that's a legitimate issue."