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Public Statements

Issue Position: Civil & Constitutional Rights

Issue Position

Location: Unknown

One of our nation's greatest assets is the respect the Constitution affords civil rights and civil liberties. I have strongly supported comprehensive civil rights legislation including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Fair Pay Restoration Act, the Equal Remedies Act, and the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, also known as the "hate crimes" bill, which strengthens the federal government's ability to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.

In order to maintain our strong democracy, every American must be confident in his or her ability to cast a vote, verify that vote, and never doubt that the vote that he or she intends to cast is counted. In early 2007, I introduced the Count Every Vote Act of 2007, which was crafted to address many of the problems Americans experienced in trying to vote and have their vote counted in federal elections in recent years. The Count Every Vote Act addresses a wide range of problems, including long wait times in which to vote, the erroneous purging of voters, voter suppression and intimidation, and unequal access to the voting process. The legislation also requires a paper trail for all voters, mandates standards for the registration of voters and the counting of provisional ballots, provides for re-enfranchisement for those convicted of crimes but who have fully repaid their debt to society, and calls for Election Day registration and a national holiday to make it easier for many Americans to vote.

Because most federal judges are appointed for life and because our federal judiciary has the responsibility of preserving core Constitutional principles and applying federal laws enacted by Congress, I have worked hard to uphold my Constitutional responsibility to carefully consider the appointment of federal judges. I have done this by supporting President Bush's judicial nominees when, based upon the record of those nominees, I believe they will follow the rule of law, and by opposing radical nominees when their record indicates that they will not.

Protecting the security of our citizens and our homeland is the most important responsibility I bear as a U.S. Senator. I firmly believe that we must do everything within our power to ensure that terrorist attacks never occur on our soil again. Indeed, the government must have the ability to take every legal measure necessary to root out terrorists. But that does not mean that we must sacrifice our laws and Constitution in the name of security. I am a cosponsor of measures to restore habeas rights to detainees in the war on terror, and I have called for the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo, which has compromised our long-term military and strategic interests, and impaired our standing overseas.

The Department of Justice holds a special place in our government. The hardworking attorneys, law enforcement officers, and staff at the Department of Justice are the defenders of our Constitution, not one political party. We need to restore the nation's confidence in the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice must once again defend our Constitution and the rule of law without regard to ideology and partisanship. We need an Attorney General who has the strength to challenge this Administration when it is wrong, who is committed to reestablishing the independence of of the Department of Justice and to restoring respect for the Constitution and the rule of law. And we need to protect the country from terrorism while also respecting Americans' civil liberties.

I believe it is important to recognize the contributions of Americans who have played a special role in protecting the civil rights of all Americans. I introduced legislation to award Dr. Dorothy Irene Height the Congressional Gold Medal for her tremendous contributions to the nation in improving the lives of African-American women, children, and families. I am pleased that this legislation was passed and Dr. Height was presented with this medal at a moving ceremony held in the Capitol Rotunda in 2004. I also introduced and shepherded through the Senate legislation to designate the building located at 1 Federal Plaza in New York City as the "James L. Watson United States Court of International Trade Building." This legislation passed Congress and was enacted into law in June 2003. In addition, I strongly supported legislation to establish the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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