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Public Statements

Executive Session

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I rise in support of Judge Roberts to be the next Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. That probably comes as no great surprise to anyone who has followed my career, but I think my reasoning hopefully will illuminate a little bit as to the difference between my passions as a Member of the Senate and as a legislator and my duty as a Senator to confirm nominees to the courts of this country because I do see them as different.

My job as a Senator is to be a passionate advocate for the things I believe are best for my State, for the constituents I represent, and best for the country and ultimately the world. I come here, as my colleagues have noted on occasions, with a fair degree of energy and passion and commitment to those causes.

When I approach the issue of nominations, particularly to a position of this import, judicial nominations, I come with a different agenda. A court is not a place for zealous advocates to impose their will upon the American public. It is not a place for people who believe their views as judges are superior to the views of the democratically elected officials in this country--better put, that their views are better than the people's views because we are, in fact, accountable to the people we represent. When I look at the confirmation process for judges, I try to step back and use a different criteria--not whether I agree with the judge's points of view on a variety of different issues but whether I believe the judge can carry out the role of a judge.

It is interesting in this debate that we have heard here in the Chamber and we have been hearing across this country now for the better part of 3 or 4 years since we have been locked up in the judicial confirmation battle that it has been a battle about ideology. It has been a battle about interpretations of the Constitution and rights derived from that Constitution and whether they will be upheld or whether they will be struck down or whether they will be modified. I believe that is an unfortunate debate. It is unfortunate that those who are applying or have been nominated for judicial positions are put in the positions of now being questioned as if they are running for political office, under the scrutiny of someone who is running for political office and make judgments about public policy as opposed to what the traditional role of the Court has been up until the last 40 or 50 years, just to decide the case before them in a narrowly tailored fashion, to do justice to the parties, in concert with the Constitution of this country--applying the law in this narrowly tailored fashion to come up with a just result for the parties in the case.

In the last 40 or 50 years, that type of justice has been rarer and rarer to find in our decisions, particularly on the Supreme Court.

As I come here, I again don't come here as a conservative. A lot of my supporters have said I am not sure Judge Roberts is a conservative. My response is, I am not sure either. Further, I am not sure it matters. What I am sure of is Judge Roberts will be a good judge, will be someone who sits and judges the case on the merits of the arguments as they apply to the Constitution of this country, and will do so in a way that comports with the great tradition in the last 40 or 50 years of the American judiciary. I am confident of that.

I think if there is anything that those on both sides of the aisle would say it is that Judge Roberts understands the limited role of the courts.

When Judge Roberts came into my office shortly after he was nominated, he stunned me. I have met with a lot of nominees who wanted to be judges from Pennsylvania, from the circuit courts as well as district courts. This was my first opportunity to meet a nominee for the Supreme Court. I have been here 11 years, and this is the first nomination for the Supreme Court in my 11 years here in the Senate. But having met many people who wanted to aspire to be judge, he was the first nominee I met with who used terms such as ``humility'' and ``modesty'' when describing the role of a judge in his role in the judicial process. Words such as ``judicial restraint'' again are not hallmarks of this judicial debate we have been engaged in now for the last few years. That may give some pause to conservatives who would like to see an activist conservative reversing lots of decisions conservatives are concerned about which the Court has passed down in the last few decades.

But to me, it gives me comfort to know this is a judge who will apply the law, who will not seek to replace the role of the legislature, or the President, State legislatures, and the Governors, township supervisors, county councils, but that he will do justice with the facts before him in the case in solving the dispute that has been presented to him.

As I said, we have had far too little of that kind of justice over the last few years.

As a result, I have written and spoken about the concern I have in this country that the judiciary is taking an ever increasing and dominant role in our society and in our Government. We are supposed to be a government that has checks and balances. When you talk about checks and balances, most people think about Republicans and Democrats. Of course, checks and balances were written long before there were such things as Republicans and Democrats. Checks and balances are the remainder of power between the branches of Government, one to check the other to make sure this finely tuned and crafted document, the Constitution, that establishes these three branches would stay in equilibrium.

There were concerns at the time about a strong President running roughshod over the Congress and the judiciary and a strong Congress doing the same. Very few had concerns about the judiciary, particularly Hamilton in the Federalist Papers. He showed very little concern about a judiciary getting out of control. One exception to that was Thomas Jefferson. It was not at the time of the writing of the Constitution but years later, after a few court decisions had been handed down which gave power to the courts, which I am not sure many of the writers of the Constitution envisioned.

But having given them power as a result of earlier court decisions, Jefferson wrote in 1821, ``The germ of destruction of our Nation is in the power of the judiciary, an irresponsible body working like gravity by night, and by day gaining a little today and a little tomorrow and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction until all shall render powerless the checks over one branch over the other, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we were separated.''

That was Jefferson's concern about our judiciary, this ``irresponsible'' body, in his terms--irresponsible in the sense that it owes no responsibility or duty, has no real ability over the executive or legislative branches to be checked.

Why do I go off on this discussion about the courts? It is because of this penchant of the judiciary to grab more authority, to act as a superlegislature and lord itself over the rest of society that we need men such as John Roberts on this Court who understand as Chief Justice the danger a judiciary of this kind is to the United States of America and to our democracy.

While I am not sure John Roberts is a conservative, I am not sure he will overturn cases which I believe should be overturned, I am sure he will do justice. He will execute his duties with restraint, modesty, and humility as the Founders who had no concern about the judiciary believed those in positions on the Court would do. He is someone whom our Founders would be proud of to serve in that position. He is someone we desperately need to speak in the Court, to speak to the Court, and lead the Court in a direction that usurps less the powers reserved for the people in our Constitution.

I strongly support John Roberts. I hope the President in his next nomination will nominate someone very much in the vein of John Roberts. This Court and this country need people such as John Roberts.

I yield the floor.

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