McConnell: Republicans Approach this Nomination with a Clear Set of Guiding Principles

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Monday regarding the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor:



“On the matter of the Supreme Court, I would note that I spoke with the President’s nominee, Judge Sotomayor, over the recess, and I assured her that she would be treated fairly and respectfully during the confirmation process. I’ll deliver the same message when the two of us have a chance to sit down and talk later on this week.



“Republicans take very seriously our obligation to review anyone who is nominated to a lifetime position on our nation’s highest court. The Senate will therefore thoroughly review Judge Sotomayor’s judicial record to ensure a full and informed debate over her qualifications to become one of the chief guardians of our nation’s Constitution and its laws. We believe the American people expect nothing less.



“Judge Sotomayor is no stranger to the process. This will be the third time she’s come before the Senate for confirmation to the Federal bench. In considering her for a seat on the Supreme Court, the standards for review become understandably more rigorous, as the Vice-President observed when he chaired the Judiciary Committee. Yet the basic qualities we look for in our justices are the same qualities we look for in any federal judge: superb legal ability, personal integrity, sound temperament, and, most importantly, a commitment to read the law even-handedly. 



“In this last respect, some of Judge Sotomayor’s past statements and decisions have raised some understandable questions and concerns. One of these is a statement she made a few years back that the Court of Appeals is, quote, ‘Where policy is made.’ I think that’s a tough statement to square with Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly contemplates a far more limited role for federal judges, and I suspect that a number of us over here in the Legislative Branch will want to ask Judge Sotomayor questions about that statement.



“The reason is simple. I think most Americans would agree that the courtroom is not an appropriate place to exercise one’s political beliefs or personal preferences. As far as most of us are concerned, politics ends at the courthouse door. The courtroom is where you go to get a fair and even-handed reading of the law, regardless of who you are or where you came from or who you voted for. Legislators make the laws, not judges. Most people understand that and place a high value on it. And the last time Judge Sotomayor came before the Senate for confirmation, I voted against her nomination precisely out of a concern that she’d bring pre-existing personal and political beliefs into the courtroom.



“Many of the same concerns I had about Judge Sotomayor eleven years ago persist. But a fresh review of her record has now begun; and, as I said, Republicans will insist that the confirmation process for Judge Sotomayor is conducted in a fair and professional manner. This is the way Republicans have treated judicial nominees in the past, and this is the way we will continue to treat them: with respect.



“But respectful doesn’t mean rushed. Judge Sotomayor has a long record, and it will take a long time to get through it. She’s served 17 years on both the trial and the appellate court. She’s been involved in more than 3,600 cases since becoming a judge. In order to conduct a thorough examination of all these cases, it’s vital that the Senate have sufficient time to do so.



“During the last three Supreme Court confirmations, the average amount of time the Senate had to prepare for a hearing was more than 60 days. For Justice Alito, the Senate had 70 days to prepare for an informed hearing. And like Judge Sotomayor, Justice Alito had thousands of cases for Senators to review. Our Democrat colleagues who were in the minority during the Alito nomination appreciated the fairness they were afforded; both the Senior Senator from Vermont and the Senior Senator from New York noted at the time that in handling the Alito nomination it was important to do it right, not quick. 



“This time around, our friend Senator Schumer notes that Judge Sotomayor has a very ‘extensive’ record, and we certainly have a ‘right’ to ‘scrutinize’ it. So in considering this nomination I’m confident our Democratic colleagues will treat us fairly and allow us to do it ‘right.’



“Throughout this process, Republicans will be guided by a few simple principles. But perhaps the most important ones are these: Americans expect and should receive equal treatment under the law, and Americans want judges who understand their role is to interpret the law, not write it. As Chief Justice Roberts put it during his confirmation hearing, the American people expect a judge to be like an umpire — someone who applies the rules, but doesn’t make them. No one ever went to a ballgame, as he put it, to watch the umpire.



“Lawmakers make law, and they have to answer for those laws every two or six years to the voters. Federal judges, on the other hand, never have to face the voters, and thus aren’t supposed to make policy. Lifetime appointments are a serious matter, and voting on a Supreme Court justice is one of the most important decisions a senator will ever make. Republicans approach this nomination with a clear set of guiding principles, and we will make every effort to determine whether Judge Sotomayor shares them.”