Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about the importance of filling the current vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States. I appreciate the words of my colleague from California.
I wish to begin by saying that my prayers and thoughts are with the family and friends and Supreme Court colleagues of Justice Scalia. He was a great scholar who had friends in many places. Just last week I was at the University of Chicago Law School, where I went to law school, and so many people have stories. He used to teach there. He taught there for a long period of time, and they miss him very much.
The Supreme Court has the constitutional responsibility to weigh some of the most important issues facing the American people. From freedom of speech, to due process, to doing business in America, Supreme Court decisions have impacted and continue to impact the daily life of every citizen of this country. As one of the three pillars of our government, we value the Court's distinctive insulation from public opinion. Justices commit themselves to the law and to the Constitution and not to politics or partisanship.
Americans need and deserve to have a functional and fully staffed Supreme Court . We cannot delay consideration of the next Supreme Court nominee. As my colleague just pointed out, we would have to go back to the Civil War, to a time where a position--an important key position on the Supreme Court of the United States--was left open. We would have to go back to a time when it was left open for more than a year. We would have to go back to a time before we had planes, before we had automobiles, before we had washing machines--you name it. We would have to go back to the Civil War.
Delaying the confirmation of a new Justice will prevent the Court from issuing binding precedent and deny access to justice for Americans. Lower courts will be left with decisions, and decisions will not be made in those cases. That is why the Constitution of the United States says that the President shall--shall--nominate someone to the Supreme Court . It doesn't say that he will wait for a year. It doesn't say that he can't do it in an election year. It says that he shall nominate someone.
We have a lot of Members of this great body who are lawyers, a lot of whom I have heard quoting the Constitution. A lot of them believe in strict interpretation of the words of the Constitution. Well, the words of the Constitution say that the President ``shall nominate'' and that the Senate's job is to ``advise and consent.'' It says that it is the Senate's job. It doesn't say that it is the Senate's job to avoid things and to just go on TV and to run ads. No. It says that the Senate has a job to do. The Senate has a job to do.
Both the President and the Senate have a constitutional duty to protect the Supreme Court's ability to function and dispense justice--not to tell the Supreme Court what to do, not to dictate their decisions, but to make sure they are simply able to do justice. This means they must be fully staffed and have the Justices in place, and it also means they should be funded. Those are our jobs.
According to our Constitution, the President replaces vacant seats on the Supreme Court . That duty does not end, as I noted, in a Presidential year, just as the responsibilities of all Senators in their States and in their Nation do not end in an election year.
President Obama was elected to serve out his entire second term, not just the first 3 years. For 332 long days, the President will be the democratically elected President of the United States--democratically elected, as in a democracy, as in how our democracy functions. He has an obligation to all Americans to dutifully execute his oath of office.
The President has not yet announced a nominee to fill the current vacancy on the Court . When he does, it will be the constitutional duty of each one of us to consider the nominee on his or her merits and then choose whether to vote yes or no. It is really not that hard. It is what the kids learn when they are taught social studies and civics when they are in elementary school. The American people who voted for us, as well as those who didn't vote for us, expect us to do the jobs we were elected to do, regardless of the timing.
A complete refusal to engage in this constitutionally required process before the President has even announced a nominee is dangerous for our system of governance. It defies the words of the Constitution. This Chamber would be neglecting a key constitutional duty if it prevented a well-qualified nominee from serving on the Supreme Court . And guess what. How do we figure out if someone is well qualified? We have hearings. That is what we have been doing for decades now. We have hearings to figure out whether this person is qualified. That is how we advise. That is how we consent. That is how we do our duty under the Constitution.
It is for that reason that I urge my colleagues to continue in the Senate's bipartisan tradition of giving full and fair consideration to Supreme Court nominees. We have precedent for the Senate performing this role in the final year of a Presidency. Most recently, the Senate confirmed Justice Kennedy, someone who is currently serving on the Supreme Court , a current member sitting on the Supreme Court , someone who makes decisions every day. When was he confirmed? He was confirmed in the last year of Ronald Reagan's Presidency. And guess what. The Senate was controlled by Democrats. So we had the exact opposite situation. Now we have a Democratic President and we have a Senate that is in the control of Republicans. Back then we had a Republican President and a Senate that was in the control of Democrats. People say: Well, what does history show us? What do we know? To me, that is the best example of history. And we know what happened: Justice Kennedy was confirmed, on Ronald Reagan's nomination, by a Democratic Senate in an election year unanimously--unanimously.
The Senate has taken such action more than a dozen times in our Nation's history, and there is no reason to abandon that precedent now. I am talking about when a Justice position opens up during an election year. We have that precedent, which I think is important. Again, I think the most important precedent, the most important example for historians, is what I led with: the fact that we have to go back to the Civil War to find a time when we left a vacancy on the Supreme Court open for a year. Think about that. Through World War I, through World War II, through huge tumult in this country, we always made sure we had a fully staffed Supreme Court .
It would be unprecedented to deny a Supreme Court nominee fair consideration in the U.S. Senate. In the last 100 years, the Senate has taken action on every Supreme Court nominee regardless of whether the nomination was made in a Presidential year. It is now February, which gives us plenty of time to consider and confirm a nominee. Let's go to that next.
People say: When will we have the time to get that done? I would submit that we do. We have hundreds of days before us. In fact, the Senate has taken an average of only 67 days. Let's make it easier: 2 months--about 2 months. That is the average since 1975 from the date of the nomination to the confirmation vote--2 months. That means that if the President offers a nomination, say, in the month of March--that sounds like a good month to have a nominee--that nominee would receive a vote in the Senate by Memorial Day. There are our 2 months. And if we even wanted to add a little time on, we would certainly do it by the Fourth of July, which is a very good holiday for those who believe in the Constitution and in the words of the Constitution.
Until we confirm a nominee, the Court is left with only eight Justices. A split decision will prevent the Supreme Courtfrom making critical decisions and leave lower courts without a precedent to follow. A major responsibility of the SupremeCourt is to resolve disagreements among lower courts . A failure of the President or the Senate to meet its constitutional obligations would cause the Supreme Court to be unable to fill its constitutional obligations.
These Supreme Court Justices aren't elected directly; they have lifetime appointments. Their job is to be insulated from elections and politics, and that is why we have these strict and straightforward words in the Constitution that say that the President shall nominate someone for the job, and they also say that the Senate will advise and consent. We have those words in place in the Constitution, in that incredibly important document that guides us in this Chamber every single day, just for a situation such as this one, just for situations such as these.
In closing, I remind my colleagues of the important work the people have sent us here to do. Yes, we have major disputes every day. That happens every day. We get into arguments about issues. There are political campaigns going on. But we have always at least followed the Constitution. That is what this is about today.
As soon as we have a nominee, as soon as the President exercises his constitutional duty and puts someone in place, we should follow the Constitution and our longstanding traditions and the history of this country and uphold that duty.
We should diligently consider the President's nominee to be the next Supreme Court Justice. As members of the Judiciary Committee, we must have the confirmation hearing. We must do our jobs.
Thank you, Mr. President, and I yield the floor.