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Agriculture, Rural Development, Food And Drug Administration, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I join my colleagues in congratulating Senator Leahy and Senator Sessions for their work on the Sotomayor nomination. The process was fair to both sides, and, most importantly, fair to the nominee.

I am pleased to rise in support of Judge Sotomayor, an individual whose life story is an inspiration to millions of Americans. A child of immigrants with modest means, Judge Sotomayor has risen by dint of exemplary academic accomplishment and hard work to the cusp of confirmation to our Nation's highest Court.

But Judge Sotomayor is much more than just a story of accomplishment. She has shown herself to be a judge truly worthy of elevation to the Supreme Court. Both on the bench and before this committee, Judge Sotomayor has proved she has the necessary character, competence, and integrity to serve on the Supreme Court. Her distinguished 17-year record on the bench demonstrates a commitment to fair and impartial application of the law and respect for the values which make up our Constitution.

At her hearing, Judge Sotomayor assured us she will listen with an open mind to all sides of an argument and that she will be mindful of the very real impact her decisions will have on each and every American. She pledged fidelity to the Constitution and to the Court's precedent, as well as a responsibility to cautiously review precedent when justice requires.

As we conclude the Senate's action on Judge Sotomayor's nomination this week, I believe we need to reflect upon the role that confirmation hearings play in the Senate's duty to advise and consent. While I have no reservations about my support for Judge Sotomayor, I share the concerns expressed by many Americans, legal commentators, and others on the Judiciary Committee about our committee's ability to have candid and substantive conversations with nominees about the issues Americans care about.

We all know the confirmation process is crucial. It is the public's only opportunity to learn about a nominee before he or she serves for life on the highest Court in our land. But, for many years now, we have seen a familiar pattern from nominees--Democratic and Republican alike--who have learned the path of least resistance is to limit their responses and cautiously cloak them in generalities.

Understandably, nominees do not want to risk their confirmation by saying anything that might provoke potential opponents. We cannot ask nominees to disclose how they would vote on cases that might come before them. But it is reasonable for us to ask them to speak more openly about past Supreme Court decisions and how they would decide cases that are close calls--what reasoning they would use and what factors they would consider.

The concerns I raise do not reflect any personal criticism about Judge
Sotomayor. I think she responded to our committee's questions with great intellect and sincerity and that she has rightly earned bipartisan praise.

However, going forward, I hope together we can explore ways to achieve the greater candor that the confirmation process demands and deserves. For example, we could convene a bipartisan group of Judiciary Committee members, members of the bar, constitutional scholars, and perhaps even members of the media who have experience following the Court and our hearings to help us determine what specific questions we can and should expect substantive answers about. If we can do this, then the committee's unique opportunity to engage nominees in the great legal questions facing our Nation will more effectively serve the Senate as we fulfill our constitutional duty.

In the meantime, I commend President Obama for nominating Judge Sotomayor--a woman of great ability who has demonstrated an enduring commitment to public service and to the law. I look forward to her tenure on the Court.


Mr. KOHL. Madam President, I received a Statement of Administration Policy from the Executive Office of the President relating to the Agriculture appropriations bill. I will read from that document at this time:

The administration strongly supports Senate passage of H.R. 2997, with the Committee-reported text of S. 1406, making appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010.

A strong, vibrant rural America is central to the Nation's future. The bill, as reported by the Committee, makes important investments in infrastructure so economic progress does not bypass rural communities. The legislation also provides the resources necessary to keep food and medicines safe and reliable. It provides critical support for farmers to continue the Nation's leading role in feeding the world. In addition, this legislation addresses chronic problems facing Americans, including poverty, nutrition, and housing.

Moreover, the legislation responds to the President's call for investments in programs that work while ending programs that do not. This legislation gives priority to merit-based funding in critical infrastructure programs. The Administration urges the Congress to continue to apply high standards to funding decisions so taxpayer money is spent efficiently and effectively.

Madam President, I am grateful that the executive branch has recognized the good work done to craft this bill in a way that meets the serious requirements of our country. Again, I thank the ranking member, Senator Brownback, for his help. This is a good bill, and I urge all Senators to support its passage.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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