Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Nomination of John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States
"The nomination of Judge John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States is a matter of tremendous consequence for future generations of Americans. It requires thoughtful inquiry and debate, and I commend my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee for their dedication to making sure that all questions were presented and that those outside of the Senate had the opportunity to make their voices heard. After serious and careful consideration of the Committee proceedings and Judge Roberts's writings, I believe I must vote against his confirmation. I do not believe that the Judge has presented his views with enough clarity and specificity for me to in good conscience cast a vote on his behalf.
The Constitution commands that the Senate provide meaningful advice and consent to the President on judicial nominations, and I have an obligation to my constituents to make sure that I cast my vote for Chief Justice of the United States for someone I am convinced will be steadfast in protecting fundamental women's rights, civil rights, privacy rights, and who will respect the appropriate separation of powers among the three branches. After the Judiciary Hearings, I believe the record on these matters has been left unclear. That uncertainly means as a matter of conscience, I cannot vote to confirm despite Judge Roberts's long history of public service.
In one memo, for example, Judge Roberts argued that Congress has the power to deny the Supreme Court the right to hear appeals from lower courts of constitutional claims involving flag burning, abortion, and other matters. He wrote that the United States would be far better off with fifty different interpretations on the right to choose than with what he called the "judicial excesses embodied in Roe v. Wade." The idea that the Supreme Court could be denied the right to rule on constitutional claims had been so long decided that even the most conservative of Judge Roberts's Justice Department colleagues strongly disagreed with him.
When questioned about his legal memoranda, Judge Roberts claimed they did not necessarily reflect his views and that he was merely making the best possible case for his clients or responding to a superior's request that he make a particular argument. But he did not clearly disavow the strong and clear views he expressed, but only shrouded them in further mystery. Was he just being an advocate for a client or was he using his position to advocate for positions he believed in? The record is unclear.
It is hard to believe he has no opinion on so many critical issues after years as a Justice Department and White House lawyer, appellate advocate and judge. His supporters remind us that Chief Justice Rehnquist supported the constitutionality of legal segregation before his elevation to the high court, but never sought to bring it back while serving the court system as its Chief Justice. But I would also remind them of Justice Thomas's assertion in his confirmation hearing that he had never even discussed Roe v. Wade, much less formed an opinion on it. Shortly after he ascended to the Court, Justice Thomas made it clear that he wanted to repeal Roe.
Adding to testimony that clouded more than clarified is that we in the Senate have been denied the full record of Judge Roberts's writings despite our repeated requests. Combined, these two events have left a question mark on what Judge Roberts's views are and how he might rule on critical questions of the day. It is telling that President Bush has said the Justices he most admires are the two most conservative justices, Justices Thomas and Scalia. It is not unreasonable to believe that the President has picked someone in Judge Roberts whom he believes holds a similarly conservative philosophy, and that voting as a bloc they could further limit the power of the Congress, expand the purview of the Executive, and overturn key rulings like Roe v. Wade.
Since I expect Judge Roberts to be confirmed, I hope that my concerns are unfounded and that he will be the kind of judge he said he would be during his confirmation hearing. If so, I will be the first to acknowledge it. However, because I think he is far more likely to vote the views he expressed in his legal writings, I cannot give my consent to his confirmation and will, therefore, vote against his confirmation. My desire to maintain the already fragile Supreme Court majority for civil rights, voting rights and women's rights outweigh the respect I have for Judge Roberts's intellect, character, and legal skills."