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Lamar Alexander to Support Sotomayor – A Knife in the Back of Republicans, the Constitution and Conservatism

Next week, the U.S. Senate will vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. We know this will happen – and it is, as her supporters like to remind us, expressly because elections do have consequences. Democrats have 60 Senators and the President is a Democrat.

But how Republicans handle the vote is critically important – both with respect to their ability to unify behind a coherent set of guiding principles, and because failure to express clear opposition to Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy will leave open the door for those who oppose her to be labeled racist and anti-hispanic.

Just as Senate Republican leadership was beginning to come together to make the case – behind the efforts of Sens. McConnell, Sessions, Kyl, Cornyn and others – along comes Lamar Alexander. The third-ranking Senate Republican this morning joined John McCain’s lap-dog (Lindsey Graham, if you had to ask…) to stick a knife in the back of Republicans, the Constitution and Conservatism by announcing his support for the nominee.

The man in charge of the Senate Republican Conference message – yeah, that’s right – is absolutely killing the message… a message that should resonate with many Americans… that Judges cannot make the law, that race should not inform an impartial judiciary and that the Constitution must be respected and followed.

Instead, in a patched-together and ill-informed floor statement (see unofficial full text below), Senator Alexander said he would vote to confirm Judge Sotomayor “[e]ven though her political and judicial philosophy may be different than [his], especially regarding Second Amendment rights.”

You know what Alexander cites as his rationale for believing Sotomayor would “decide cases with impartiality?” Because she told him so. Yeah. She said so in her hearing. OH! Ok, so if I go up to the Hill one day and tell a bunch of Democrat Senators that I believe the Constitution is advisory and that Judges should make law, they will just ignore my Federalist Society membership? Ignore my work and writings to the contrary over my whole life?

How can you say this stuff seriously on the floor of the United States Senate?

Even more, Alexander and Graham are two peas in a pod of uselessness – so wrapped up in their own self-importance and an over-inflated sense of “being above the partisan rancor” that they are letting out what air we have in the proverbial balloon and risking turning this into yet another political exercise instead of a strong stand on principle.

And this isn’t the only issue – no sir. How about the off-the-radar-but-you-better-keep-your-eye-on-it Wyden-Bennett healthcare bill? Erick covered Alexander’s support of that baby-killing, big-government bill here, along with a reminder of how quick Alexander is to throw Republicans under the bus in favor of making nice with Democrats – and Graham is right there with him. How about the bailouts? Check. How about earmarks and big spending? Check.

And what does this kind of ring-kissing get us? A favorable article by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, in which Graham received this praise: “Over the white noise of charge and countercharge, only Lindsey Graham’s words soared”? This is precisely the kind of thing we were promised with John McCain as our nominee… that “things would be different,” that all the independents and moderates would come running to our cause… that the media would treat us better.

Yeah, right.

Alexander Floor Speech:

{10:00:55 NSP} (THE PRESIDING OFFICER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: THE SENATOR FROM TENNESSEE.

{10:01:00 NSP} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
MR. ALEXANDER: THANK YOU, MADAM PRESIDENT. MADAM PRESIDENT, I
JUST — I HAVE A STATEMENT TO MAKE ABOUT THE PRESIDENT’S
NOMINATION OF JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR TO BE ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF
THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT. EVEN THOUGH JUDGE SOTOMAYOR’S
POLITICAL AND JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY MAY BE DIFFERENT THAN MINE,
ESPECIALLY REGARDING SECOND-AMENDMENT RIGHTS, I WILL VOTE TO
CONFIRM HER BECAUSE SHE IS WELL-QUALIFIED BY EXPERIENCE,
TEMPERAMENT, CHARACTER, AND INTELLECT, TO SERVE AS AN ASSOCIATE

{10:01:31} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT. IN 2005, I SAID ON
THIS FLOOR THAT IT WAS WRONG FOR THEN-SENATOR OBAMA AND HALF
THE DEMOCRATIC SENATORS TO VOTE AGAINST JOHN ROBERTS, A
SUPERBLY QUALIFIED NOMINEE, SOLELY BECAUSE THEY DISAGREED WITH
WHAT SENATOR OBAMA DESCRIBED AS ROBERTS’ — QUOTE –
“OVERARCHING POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY” AND HIS — QUOTE — “WORK IN
THE WHITE HOUSE AND THE SOLICITOR GENERAL’S OFFICE THAT

{10:02:03} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
CONSISTENTLY SIDED WITH THE STRONG IN OPPOSITION TO THE WEAK.”
UNQUOTE. TODAY IT WOULD BE EQUALLY WRONG FOR ME TO VOTE AGAINST
JUDGE SOTOMAYOR SOLELY BECAUSE SHE’S NOT ON MY SIDE ON SOME
ISSUES. COURTS WERE NEVER INTENDED TO BE POLITICAL BODIES
COMPOSED OF JUDGES ON YOUR SIDE WHO WOULD RELIABLY TILT YOUR
WAY IN CONTROVERSIAL CASES. COURTS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO JUST

{10:02:35} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
THE OPPOSITE: DECIDE DIFFICULT CASES WITH IMPARTIALITY. THE
OATH THAT JUDGE SOTOMAYOR HAS TAKEN TWICE AND WILL TAKE AGAIN
WHEN SHE’S SWORN IN AS ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT,
SAYS IT BEST, AND I QUOTE

IT: “I WILL ADMINISTER JUSTICE WITH RESPECT TO PERSONS AND DO
EQUAL RIGHT TO THE POOR AND TO THE RICH, AND I WILL FAITHFULLY
AND IMPARTIALLY DISCHARGE AND PERFORM ALL DUTIES INCUMBENT UPON
ME UNDER THE CONSTITUTION AND THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES.”

{10:03:07} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
END OF QUOTE. NOW, DURING HER CONFIRMATION HEARINGS, MADAM
PRESIDENT, JUDGE SOTOMAYOR EXPRESSLY REJECTED THEN-SENATOR
OBAMA’S VIEW THAT A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE OF JUDICIAL DECISIONS –
THAT IN A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE OF JUDICIAL DECISIONS — QUOTE –
“THE CRITICAL INGREDIENT IS SUPPLIED BY WHAT’S IN A JUDGE’S

{10:03:40} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
HEART AND IN THE DEPTH AND BREADTH OF ONE’S EMPATHY.” UNQUOTE.
IN ANSWER TO A SENATOR FROM SENATOR KYL SHE SAID IN HER
CONFIRMATION HEARING, AND I WILL QUOTE THAT AS WELL, “I CAN
ONLY EXPLAIN WHAT I THINK JUDGES SHOULD DO, WHICH IS JUDGES
CAN’T RELY ON WHAT’S IN THEIR HEART.” THIS IS JUDGES SOTOMAYOR
SPEAKING. “THEY DON’T DETERMINE THE LAW. CONGRESS MAKES THE
LAWS. THE JOB OF A JUDGE IS TO APPLY THE LAW. AND SO IT’S NOT
THE HEART THAT COMPELS CONCLUSIONS IN CASES, IT’S THE LAW, AND

{10:04:11} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
THE JUDGE APPLIES THE LAW TO THE FACTS BEFORE THAT JUDGE.” THAT
WAS JUDGE SOTOMAYOR’S ANSWER TO SENATOR KYL. GIVING BROAD
SENATE APPROVAL TO OBVIOUSLY WELL-QUALIFIED NOMINEES HELPS TO
INCREASE THE PRESTIGE OF THE SUPREME COURT AND TO CONFIRM ITS
IMPARTIALITY. FOR THAT REASON, UNTIL THE LAST FEW YEARS,
REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC SENATORS, AFTER RIGOROUS INQUIRIES
INTO THE FITNESS OF NOMINEES, USUALLY HAVE GIVEN THOSE
WELL-QUALIFIED NOMINEES AN OVERWHELMING VOTE OF APPROVAL. FOR

{10:04:46} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
EXAMPLE, NO JUSTICE ON THE SUPREME COURT THAT JOHN ROBERTS
JOINED IN 2005 HAD RECEIVED MORE THAN NINE NEGATIVE VOTES. FOUR
WERE CONFIRMED UNANIMOUSLY. ALL BUT THREE REPUBLICAN SENATORS
VOTED FOR JUSTICE GINSBURG, A FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL OF THE
AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION. EVERY SINGLE DEMOCRATIC SENATOR
VOTED TO CONFIRM JUSTICE SCALIA. NOW IN TRULY EXTRAORDINARY
CASES SENATORS, OF COURSE, RESERVE THE PREROGATIVE, AS I DO, TO

{10:05:21} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
VOTE “NO” OR EVEN TO VOTE TO DENY AN UP-OR-DOWN VOTE. DURING
THE EIGHT YEARS I WAS GOVERNOR OF TENNESSEE, MADAM PRESIDENT, I
APPOINTED ABOUT 50 JUDGES. IN DOING SO, I LOOKED FOR THE SAME
QUALITIES THAT JUSTICE ROBERTS AND JUDGE SOTOMAYOR HAVE

DEMONSTRATED: INTELLIGENCE, GOOD CHARACTER, RESTRAINT, RESPECT
FOR LAW, AND RESPECT FOR THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE THE COURT. I DID
NOT ASK ONE APPLICANT HOW HE OR SHE WOULD RULE ON ABORTION OR
IMMIGRATION OR TAXATION. I APPOINTED THE FIRST FEMALE CIRCUIT

{10:05:56} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
JUDGE IN OUR STATE AND THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN COURT
CHANCELLOR AND THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN STATE SUPREME COURT
JUSTICE. A POINTED BOTH — I APPOINTED BOTH DEMOCRATS AND
REPUBLICANS. THAT PROCESS SERVED OUR STATE WELL AND HELPED TO
BUILD RESPECT FOR THE INDEPENDENCE AND FAIRNESS OF OUR
JUDICIARY. IN THE SAME WAY, IT IS MY HOPE THAT MY VOTE NOW WILL
NOT ONLY HELP TO CONFIRM A WELL-QUALIFIED NOMINEE BUT WILL HELP

{10:06:31} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
TO RETURN THE SENATE TO THE PRACTICE ONLY RECENTLY LOST OF
INQUIRING DILIGENTLY TO THE QUALIFICATIONS OF A NOMINEE AND
THEN ACCEPTING THAT ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES, ONE IS TO
CONFER UPON THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES THE
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO APPOINT JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT.
I ASK THAT MY STATEMENT ON JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS BE PRINTED IN

{10:07:03} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
THE RECORD AFTER THESE REMARKS.

{10:07:05 NSP} (THE PRESIDING OFFICER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: WITHOUT OBJECTION, SO ORDERED.

{10:07:06 NSP} (MR. ALEXANDER) { NOT AN OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT }
MR. ALEXANDER: I SUGGEST THE ABSENCE OF A QUORUM.

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