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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BURRIS. Mr. President, over the last few weeks, many Americans have watched Supreme Court confirmation hearings that took place before the Senate Judiciary Committee. At times, the atmosphere was tense, but my colleagues on both sides of the aisle performed their solemn duty under the Constitution. They subjected the President's nominee to rigorous questioning and took a hard look at her qualifications.

At every turn, the nominee offered thoughtful testimony and proved herself to be a woman of powerful intellect and sound judgment.

Earlier this week I met with Solicitor General Elena Kagan in my office. I congratulated her on her nomination to the highest Court in the land. Then I asked her some tough questions of my own.

The power to advise and consent is not one this Senate should ever take lightly. As a trained lawyer and former attorney general of Illinois, I have a deep understanding of the Court's enormous impact on the lives of ordinary Americans. These nine individuals have the power to set binding precedent. They are trusted to navigate difficult legal ground, and in every case, they hand down rulings that carry the full weight of law.

There are no armies to back them up. There is no threat of violence; just a quiet force of a written opinion. That is what makes this country so remarkable. We are a nation of laws. We have dedicated ourselves to the principle of self-government. Although our legal landscape is consistently evolving, the Founders of this great Republic created a strong judiciary charged with interpretation of these laws and upholding the Constitution. So when this body considers a nomination to the Federal bench, it is a duty my colleagues and I take very seriously.

After speaking with Solicitor General Kagan on Tuesday, I am confident she will be a worthy addition to the Supreme Court. General Kagan's legal training is second to none, and her diverse experience will bring added depth to the highest Court in the land.

As a former law clerk, a private practice attorney, a professor, and dean of Harvard Law School, Elena Kagan has proven herself to be a world-class legal mind. As the current U.S. Solicitor General and as a former associate White House counsel, she possesses a keen understanding of current issues and a strong commitment to the values of public service.

As I take the floor today, she is poised to become the fourth female Justice ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. More important, she will be the first Justice in many years who was not elevated to the Court from a lower court. I believe this will lend fresh perspective to the highest judicial body in our land that will bring new diversity to the Supreme Court and help to build debate rather than consensus.

It is our constitutional duty to shape a high Court that is inclusive of all considerations and points of view. Each ruling is grounded in tested reasoning and bound by the weight of precedent. If Elena Kagan is confirmed, I am confident she will help do just that. She will be a new, independent voice standing on the side of fairness and reason.

I urge my friends on both sides of the aisle to join me in supporting her timely confirmation.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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