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Public Statements

Sunstein Nomination

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I want to speak on the nomination of Cass R. Sunstein to be the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget.

I placed a hold on the consideration of Professor Sunstein's confirmation after his hearing in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. I chose to do this because Professor Sunstein has written, lectured, and made recommendations on animal rights issues that are very troubling to me and to folks who make their living in agriculture and those who enjoy our Nation's great hunting and fishing heritage.

Let me just say, Mr. President, it is extremely unusual for this Member of the Senate to place a hold on anybody. It is not something I normally do.

Professor Sunstein has theorized that animals--he has theorized in writing as well as in speeches--that animals should be permitted to bring suit against their owners and others with human beings being their representatives. Let me say that again. Professor Sunstein has theorized in writing and in speeches that animals should be permitted to bring lawsuits against their owners and others with human beings as their representatives.

That is a very radical and strange position, and it not only got my attention but it got the attention of any number of other folks around the country, both within and without the agricultural sector of our country. The devastating effect this would have on animal agriculture is incalculable. Mistreated livestock do not perform well. American farmers and ranchers work every day to make sure their stock is cared for in a humane manner, and yet they would still face a tremendous threat from frivolous lawsuits under this misguided theory. Even though claims would be baseless, they would still bear the financial costs of reckless litigation. That is a cost that would put most family farming and ranching operations out of business.

Professor Sunstein also made offhand remarks during lectures that ``perhaps hunting ought to be banned.'' While he offered assurances during his nomination hearing that his personal view supported hunting, I am not a member of that committee and thus was not able to question Professor Sunstein personally during his confirmation hearing.

I greatly enjoy the time I spend hunting with my friends and family, and I was also very disturbed by this statement.

The Administrator of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs must have a firm foundation in common sense, and we owe it to the American public to ensure that regulators are properly vetted by the Senate. That is why I held up Professor Sunstein's nomination in order to provide him an opportunity to explain his views on animal rights as well as the second amendment.

Since his original hearing, Professor Sunstein has met with people involved in agriculture, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Farm Animal Welfare Coalition, the National Pork Producers Council, and the United Egg Producers. He has heard their point of view and exactly how devastating some of his theories would be to the reality of earning a living in rural America. He has satisfied some of them, and some are still decidedly wary of his ideas.

I have also had the opportunity to meet personally with Professor Sunstein to let him explain, and me explain to him how detrimental his theories would be to the folks working so hard to feed this country and to hopefully obtain from Professor Sunstein assurances that he does not oppose hunting or the right to bear arms. I tried to figure out what he meant by saying that animals ought to have the right to sue individuals.

Let me say, Professor Sunstein comes highly recommended by a number of folks from the conservative side of the philosophical divide in this country. His ability to look at regulatory measures and to provide cost-benefit analysis is very intriguing. He is obviously a very competent person when it comes to that side of the business community. I have a great appreciation for that.

I had a very good meeting with Professor Sunstein yesterday, and after our meeting I received a letter from Professor Sunstein wherein he explained some of his statements and inflammatory ideas. In that letter, he stated that he ``would not take any steps to promote litigation on behalf of animals'' and that Federal ``law does not create an individual right to bring lawsuits on behalf of animals against agriculture.'' He also stated that he believes ``the second amendment creates an individual right to possess guns for purposes of both hunting and self-defense.''

At this time, I ask unanimous consent to have the letter to me from Professor Sunstein dated July 14, 2009, printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record

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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Administration nominees deserve a fair hearing by the Senate, and Professor Sunstein is no different. While I cannot agree with his ideas, his legal theories, or his views, now that he has been educated about the toll they would take on hard-working farmers and ranchers in America, I am not going to keep him from any further consideration. I intend to lift my hold on Professor Sunstein.

I understand from Professor Sunstein now that he has a much better understanding of animal agriculture and our country's sporting tradition. I am optimistic that this open dialog with animal agriculture will continue. I obviously look forward to working with him to ensure he continues to carry out exactly what he stated to me in his letter of July 14.

I yield the floor.

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