[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 164 (Wednesday, October 3, 2018)]
[Pages S6504-S6506]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. SASSE. Mr. President, I rise to say in public today what I have 
been discussing with many individual Nebraskans over the last 17 days 
about the ``me too.'' movement, the important ``me too.'' movement, 
about a nation that is accelerating our descent into tribalism and 
about our continuing decline here in the Senate as a deliberative 
body--or as a Nebraska woman put it a little more bluntly to me 2 
nights ago: What the hell is happening in my country?
  One part of the answer to her urgent question is that the Senate is 
being swallowed whole by 24/7 cable news, and that inclination--that 
temptation--probably just can't be reconciled with being a great 
deliberative body. Doing reality TV and wrestling with big, hard, 
complicated, long-term problems are just fundamentally different 
  I am not here tonight to talk about the Supreme Court confirmation 
votes that we will probably be taking this weekend. I am here to talk 
about the nasty process we have been navigating over the past 86 days 
and about the false choices some people are claiming stand before us 
and about where we in the Senate will go next week, next month, and 
next year after that vote.
  I am not here to talk about how fundamentally broken the Senate 
Judiciary Committee is or how absurd it is to think that the problems 
in our committee structures are going to be solved by preening and 
grandstanding Senators looking for sound bites, although both of those 
things are obviously true.
  No, I am here to talk tonight about the false choice that is being 
repeated hour after hour after hour on television that this 
confirmation vote about one vacant seat on the Supreme Court--in that 
vote we are somehow going to be making a giant binary choice about the 
much broader issue of whether we do or don't care about women. That is 
simply not true. That is not what we are doing this weekend.
  Fortunately, many Nebraskans the last 2 weekends when I have been 
home have been much more nuanced than the kind of screaming we hear on 
battling cable news channels.
  A Supreme Court confirmation vote isn't a grand choice about whether 
we love our daughters or whether we trust our sons. That is not the 
choice before us. This is a consent decision about one person for one 
  Again, I am not here to talk tonight about the particular vote. There 
is lots of lobbying going on around this body right now. I am not here 
to talk about that particular vote. But I will say that I have spent 
more than 150 hours at this point reviewing documents and in hearings 
and consulting investigators and experts related to this confirmation.
  Moreover, I will also say that although I have said many 
complimentary things about Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his distinguished 
record of 12 years of service on the DC Circuit Court, I will say that 
I urged the President back in June and early July to make a different 
choice before he announced this nomination. I urged him to nominate a 
different individual. I urged the President to nominate a woman.
  Part of my argument then was that the very important ``me too.'' 
movement was also very new and that this Senate is not at all well 
prepared to handle potential allegations of sexual harassment and 
assault that might have come forward, absent knowing a particular 
  Let me be clear. There is some academic literature that suggests that 
very few allegations of sexual assault in the broader culture are 
fabricated. Or stated conversely, the hefty majority of allegations of 
sexual assault in our broader culture are probably true.
  But in politics, in this city, a place filled with politicians who 
constantly believe that the end justifies the means, that situation 
might well have been different, I argued in June. So in the interest of 
cautious prudence, I urged a different path than the one that was 
chosen. But so what?
  Once the decision was made, once the President made his nomination, 
that meant that the work the Senate needed to do was to evaluate the 
specific evidence and claims about the specific individual who was on 
the floor before us.
  But we are being told now that our vote isn't about a specific 
individual, a specific seat, or specific evidence; rather, we are being 
told that the choice before us in this confirmation is a much broader 
choice about whether we do or don't care about women.
  If you turn on cable news or if you open up social media--and I 
highly recommend against both of those things in times like this; for 
the last 2\1/2\ weeks I have stayed clear almost entirely of those two 
ugly places, and it is been good for my soul. But what you hear if you 
turn on cable or if you look at social media is this: Pick a side. It 
is good versus evil. Everything is immediate. Everything is certain. 
There is no doubt. There is no gray. There are only tribes of Hatfields 
and McCoys, Israelis and Palestinians--a world of generational hatred 
without end. There is no listening, no understanding, no empathy, no 
possibility that perhaps, just maybe in a broken world, violence, pain, 
and shame are all too real. Perhaps trying to make angels and devils 
out of your fellow countrymen and women is not the most useful way for 
us to try to make sense of the world. Everything might not be black-
and-white simple.

  We regularly seem--in this body and in the politicized culture that 
we are trying to serve on cable news--to lack any awareness of the 
possibility that maybe, just maybe, constant, instant certainty about 
political battle lines might not be a good way to go forward. We might 
be undermining rather than building a better world for our kids.
  Well, I don't believe this is what most Americans want. I don't 
believe most Americans are political addicts. I don't believe most 
Americans trust us in this institution. I don't believe most Americans 
want our political class to be our leaders right now. I don't believe 
most Americans want to see each and every question, each and every 
sphere of life, each and every institution across the land politicized.

[[Page S6505]]

  I think most Americans are a lot more like my wife, who called me 
last week from Nebraska sobbing after both opening statements on 
Thursday. What we saw and heard during last Thursday's eight 
grotesquely public hours were two different families hurting badly--two 
families. The Ford family and the Kavanaugh family, both of them homes 
with children, have been the recipients of constant death threats, and 
for what? For one seat on the Supreme Court? We know this isn't about 
that when people are threatening death. This is about tribe.
  One of the two families can't let their girls go out alone now. The 
other family has been forced to move from their home. In both Northern 
California and suburban Maryland, there are extra folks being hired in 
the important work of protection and security detail, a part of our 
economy that we don't want to grow and that is indisputably growing in 
our time. This isn't right.
  We saw people having to grapple with the brokenness and the 
sinfulness of a fallen world. But they were not just grappling with it. 
They were grappling with the nastiness East of Eden in realtime on 
television as a kind of politainment art.
  No one really thinks that our body politic is going to get any 
healthier by giving more oxygen to the one-man clown show that is 
Michael Avenatti. But do you know what? Not being down with the circus 
is not the same thing as being indifferent to the complexities of the 
``me too.'' movement. I believe we have a widespread legacy of sexual 
assault in this country. I believe we don't have much of a shared 
sexual ethic right now, and we haven't for quite some time, and I think 
that horrible stuff has happened and continues to happen.
  I have wept with the victims of sexual assault, and I believe the 
advocacy groups' data that between one-fifth and one-third of American 
women have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Given 
that most women have many other important women in their lives--a mom, 
and a daughter, sisters, and a couple of close friends--it means the 
overwhelming majority of American women have been deeply affected, 
deeply hurt by the tragedy of sexual violence.
  I have had two dear, dear friends who have been raped, and it is an 
act from the pit of hell. People, men and women, are created in the 
image of God--Imago Dei, we say in Christianity. Sexuality is a deep 
and precious gift. It is an intimacy; it is a oneness that is to be 
shared and given--never taken. Sex is big, not small, and you don't get 
to decide it for someone else.
  The ``me too.'' movement is a complicated movement, but it has been a 
very good thing. Far too often, many girls and women have been told 
that they are meat. They have been told this in word and in deed--that 
they are parts to be consumed rather than God's children to be 
cherished and respected and partnered with.
  Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic, one of the most profound writers on 
sexuality in our time, wrote recently about a horrible experience she 
endured during her senior year of high school on Long Island. She was 
the victim of an attempted date rape, and she contemplated suicide in 
its aftermath. She struggled in school, and she doubted her worth and 
  After she struggled against this boy trying to violently force 
himself on her for many scary minutes, he finally gave up and just 
decided to restart the car. They drove away from that deserted beach in 
  Listen to her words. She writes:

       I told no one. In my mind, this was not an example of male 
     aggression used against a girl to extract sex from her. In my 
     mind, this was an example of how undesirable I was. This was 
     proof that I was not the kind of girl you took to parties, or 
     the kind of girl you wanted to get to know. I was the kind of 
     girl you took to a deserted parking lot and tried to make 
     give you sex. Telling someone would not be revealing what he 
     had done; it would be revealing how deserving I was of that 
     kind of treatment.

  Hear what she is saying here. This precious young girl was hearing in 
her sexual assault that there must be something wrong with her, that 
she is the kind of girl only worth being groped. She is not worth being 
taken to dinner or engaged in conversation as if she has a mind. If 
that doesn't make you cry, there is something wrong with you.
  And now-adult Mrs. Flanagan continues:

       My depression quickly escalated to a point where, if I had 
     been evaluated by a psychiatrist, I would probably have been 
     institutionalized as a danger to myself. I had plans for how 
     I was going to kill myself. I managed to make a few friends, 
     who introduced me to acid, which was no help with the 
     depression. I sat in classes in a blank state except for 
     English. (``To the girl about whom I will someday say, `I 
     knew her when,' '' my English teacher wrote in that yearbook, 
     words that stunned me when I first read them, and that I have 
     never forgotten.)

  What a blessing to have had that kind of teacher, someone who 
proclaimed to Flanagan her dignity and her worth, who shouted meaning 
into her soul.
  Our culture has been living through an epidemic of sexual assaults, 
and these attacks on girls' worth, on women's worth, need to be 
grappled with. They need a reckoning. What we are dealing with here is 
horrible physically, but it is more than that. What we are dealing 
with--we are dealing with something that has a spiritual level as well.
  My view is that the ``me too.'' movement is going to make some 
mistakes. It is going to have some excesses. But overall, it has been 
an important and a needed development. A whole lot of brave women have 
stepped forward, and they have exposed their abusers who have been some 
of the most powerful men in Hollywood and media and corporate America 
and elsewhere. These women did this at unthinkable professional and 
personal risk. They deserve our respect. They also deserve not to have 
their progress co-opted by the cynics who run this town. Their stories 
are not fodder for fundraising emails. The ``me too.'' movement doesn't 
belong to the left or the right; the ``me too.'' movement belongs to 
the women who have found in it an inspiration to step forward and 
confront the people who hurt them.

  I have two daughters, and, God forbid, in the event that something 
ever happened to one of them, I want them to feel like they could come 
forward knowing that their accusations will be taken seriously, that 
they wouldn't be dismissed or vilified for speaking up, that they 
wouldn't be ashamed or blamed.
  We all know that the President cannot lead us through this time. We 
know that he is dispositionally unable to restrain his impulse to 
divide us. His mockery of Dr. Ford last night in Mississippi was wrong, 
but it doesn't really surprise anyone. That is who he is.
  Similarly, it was wrong last week when he said that ``if the attack 
on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately 
filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities.'' It is wrong when people 
insinuate that a woman bears blame for her sexual assault because she 
was drunk. This reinforces the stereotypes that have caused millions of 
women to bury their experiences of abuse and assault for decades. This 
kind of repugnant nonsense creates excuses for abusers. Just because a 
woman drinks or even if she drinks too much does not make her body or 
her sexuality any less her own, and I don't want anyone telling those 
poisonous lies to my daughters.
  I also have a son, and in the event that, God forbid, he is accused 
of a crime, I hope that he is presumed innocent and that he is 
permitted to exercise his right to defend himself. I think there are a 
whole lot of parents out there who think the same thing. I don't just 
think this; I know this because I have taken the calls from Nebraska 
moms who say just this. We want this not because of our politics; we 
want this because we believe that girls and boys, women and men, 
daughters and sons are created with dignity and worth.
  This is not about choosing between believing our daughters and 
protecting our sons. That choice is false. But do you know what my 
constituents back in Nebraska told me this weekend they think this is 
now about? They think it is about us. They think it is about all of us 
in this town being addicted to the circus. They don't think very many 
of us are interested in truth; they think we are interested in 
political instrumentality. They think we are interested in exploiting 
differences and divisions in America because we are addicted to short-
term power in a city that isn't worthy of much respect.

[[Page S6506]]

  In closing, let me read one more note from another Nebraska woman 
this week. This actually came in last Friday.

       I was angry at yesterday's hearing--angry that something as 
     important as a conversation about the victimization of a 
     woman at the hands of a man became just another move in a 
     game of partisan chess. But I'm also deeply troubled. 
     Troubled that the painful memories shared by Dr. Ford in that 
     hearing. Troubled by the painful memories it evoked in women 
     across our country who have suffered sexual violence. 
     Troubled by the fact that this violence comes at the hands of 
     men. I'm deeply saddened by this violence committed at the 
     hands of men. I just can't comprehend it. I weep for our sons 
     and daughters that it exists in our fallen world.
       To those victims for whom yesterday's hearing brought fresh 
     pain, I am so sorry that a political circus opened these 
     wounds anew. Sorry that this abomination of humanity was ever 
     experienced at all.

  She continues:

       Senator, I want you to vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, but 
     I also worry that vote might be heard as a reflection on the 
     validity of other women's experience. I worry that pundits 
     are going to tell women that. I am tired of women's stories 
     just being used for politicians' ends. I'm tired of women 
     being used and discarded. Women's pain isn't supposed to be a 
     political football.

  She is obviously right.
  The ``me too.'' movement doesn't belong to politicians. The ``me 
too.'' movement has elevated our consciousness and awareness of sexual 
assault and sexual violence against women. We must not give back the 
important ground gained in this movement by authorizing this media 
circus to stand in for generations of stories of tragic pain. And no 
matter how much cable news screams this, it would be an egregious 
offense against the cause of women to call this one up-our-down vote a 
proxy for the validation and validity of claims of sexual violence. We 
can do better than that, and we must do better if we are actually going 
to care about women and if we are going to serve our constituents in 
this body.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, this evening, the Senate will receive 
the results of the FBI supplemental background investigation of Judge 
Brett Kavanaugh.
  This is now the seventh time the FBI has looked into Judge 
Kavanaugh's background, and this information comes on top of what has 
already been one of the most thorough and exhaustive Senate reviews of 
any Supreme Court nominee in the entire history of our country: Five 
days of public hearings, 65 private meetings with Senators, more than 
1,200 responses to written questions from Members, more than 500,000 
pages of documents were reviewed--the most produced for any Supreme 
Court nomination in our history--and the 300-plus opinions Judge 
Kavanaugh has issued during his 12 years on the DC Circuit.
  And now, Senators will have the evidence collected by this additional 
background investigation for their consideration as well.
  Members will have the opportunity to review investigators' records, 
and as is the standard procedure, designated Judiciary Committee staff 
members with the required clearances will be authorized to brief 
  There will be plenty of time for Members to review and be briefed on 
the supplemental material before a Friday cloture vote. So I am filing 
cloture on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination this evening so the process can 
move forward, as I indicated earlier this week.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, what is the pending business?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an 
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.