[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 151 (2005), Part 15]
[Pages 20902-20908]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

                       NOMINATION OF JOHN ROBERTS

  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, our Founders proclaimed the bedrock 
principle that we are all created equal. But everyone knows that when 
we started, the reality was far different. For more than two centuries, 
we have struggled, sometimes spilling precious blood, to fulfill that 
unique American promise. The goals, the principles, and the sacrifices 
of millions of Americans breathed an ever-fuller life into our 
constitutional ideals.
  The Constitution itself has been the inspiration for this march of 
progress. The open-ended principles that our

[[Page 20903]]

Founders had the wisdom to bequeath us have acquired ever-deepening 
meaning over the years--a remarkably steady movement toward greater 
protection for individual rights and liberties, and an increasing 
assurance that governments at all levels have the authority to defend 
ordinary Americans from overreaching by those who would discriminate 
against them or exploit them.
  We have made much progress. But our work is not finished, and we 
still look to our elected representatives and our independent courts to 
uphold those founding principles in each new generation, to continue 
the great march of progress, to never turn back and never give up our 
hard-won gains.
  This was the basic issue in our hearings on the nomination of John 
Roberts to become our next Chief Justice. Would he bring to that high 
office the values and ideals that would enable our struggle for 
equality and opportunity for all to continue, or would he stand in the 
  The only records made available to us were those of John Roberts as 
an aggressive activist in the Reagan administration, eager to limit 
basic values that we have achieved at great cost and sacrifice over the 
years, especially in basic areas such as voting rights, women's rights, 
civil rights, and disability rights. He is an outstanding lawyer who 
says he could represent clients on any side of a question. As 
Congressman John Lewis eloquently stated in our hearings, 25 years ago, 
John Roberts was on the wrong side of the Nation's struggle to achieve 
genuine equality of opportunity for all Americans. Now, we need to know 
which side he is on today. We need to know that as Chief Justice of the 
United States, his sole client would be all the American people.
  John Roberts is a highly intelligent nominee. He has argued 39 cases 
before the Supreme Court and won more than half of them. He is adept at 
turning questions on their head while giving seemingly appropriate 
answers. These skills served him well as a Supreme Court advocate. 
These same skills, however, did not contribute to a reasonable 
confirmation process. At the end of the 4 days of hearings, we still 
know very little more than we knew when we started.
  In answer to another question about his views, he stated again:

       I will confront issues in this area as I would confront 
     issues in any area, . . . and that would be to fully and 
     fairly consider the arguments presented and decide them 
     according to the rule of law.

  In yet another instance, he proclaimed:

       The responsibility of the judicial branch is to decide 
     particular cases that are presented to them in this area 
     according to the rule of law.

  And again:

       I became a lawyer or at least developed as a lawyer because 
     I believe in the rule of law.

  The rule of law--everyone in the Senate agrees with that. In fact, we 
have each taken an oath of office to protect and defend the 
Constitution, and we take that oath seriously. But it reveals little 
about how we will vote on the important questions of the day, and what 
values and ideals we bring to our decisions.
  Judge Roberts said that a judge should be like an umpire, calling the 
balls and strikes but not making the rules.
  But we all know that with any umpire, the call may depend on your 
point of view. An instant replay from another angle can show a very 
different result. Umpires follow the rules of the game. But in critical 
cases, it may depend on where they are standing when they make the 
  The same holds true of judges.
  As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously stated:

       The life of the law has not been logic; it has been 

  As Justice Stephen Breyer offered in his confirmation hearing:

       I always think law requires both a heart and a head. If you 
     do not have a heart, it becomes a sterile set of rules, 
     removed from human problems, and it will not help. If you do 
     not have a head, there is the risk that in trying to decide a 
     particular person's problem in a case that may look fine for 
     that person, you cause trouble for a lot of other people, 
     making their lives yet worse.

  The rule of law is not some mathematical formula for meting out 
justice. It is our values and ideals that give it real meaning in the 
case of the Constitution, not our personal values and ideals but our 
values and ideals, derived from the meaning of the constitutional text.
  We all believe in the rule of law. But that is just the beginning of 
the conversation when it comes to the meaning of the Constitution. The 
Constitution of Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas is a very different 
document from the Constitution of Justice Stevens and Justice Souter. 
Everyone follows the same text. That is the rule of law. But the 
meaning of the text is often imprecise. You must examine the intent of 
the Framers, the history, and the current reality. And this examination 
will lead to very different outcomes depending on each Justice's 
constitutional world view. Is it a full and generous view of our rights 
and liberties and of government power to protect the people, or a 
narrow and cramped view of those rights and liberties and the 
government's power to protect ordinary Americans?
  Based on the record available, there is clear and convincing evidence 
that Judge Roberts' view of the rule of law would narrow the protection 
of basic voting rights. The values and perspectives displayed over and 
over again in his record cast large doubts on his view of the validity 
of laws that remove barriers to equal opportunity for women, 
minorities, and the disabled. His record raises serious questions about 
the power of Congress to pass laws to protect citizens in matters that 
they care about.
  In fact, there is nothing in the record to indicate otherwise. For 
all the hoopla and all the razzle-dazzle, the record is no different in 
its bedrock substance than it was the day the hearings started.
  When Senator Kohl and others asked Judge Roberts whether he would 
disavow any of the positions he took over the years, he refused to do 
so. On the first day of the hearing, Senator Kohl asked, ``Which of 
those positions were you supportive of, or are you still supportive of, 
and which would you disavow?'' in order to try to determine what his 
views are today. Judge Roberts never provided a clear response.
  In the area of voting rights, he has a long and detailed record of 
strong opposition to section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which is 
widely acknowledged by scholars and civil rights experts to be one of 
the most powerful and effective civil rights laws ever enacted. It 
outlaws voting practices that deny or dilute the right to vote based on 
race, national origin, or language minority status--and is largely 
troversial today. Before it was passed, there had not been a single 
African American elected since Reconstruction from seven of the 
Southern States with the greatest of African-American populations.
  But in 1981 and 1982, Judge Roberts was one of a small group of 
attorneys in the Justice Department urging the administration to oppose 
a strong section 2, which allowed discrimination to be proved by 
demonstrating its results, not just its intent. Although Judge Roberts 
sought to characterize his opposition to this critical amendment as 
simply following the policy of the Reagan administration, the dozens of 
memos he wrote on this subject show that he personally believed the 
administration was right to oppose the ``effects test.''
  In fact, he pressed to keep others from changing their minds about 
opposing the law. When the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil 
Rights Division Brad Reynolds raised concerns about sending the Senate 
a letter on this issue, John Roberts urged the Attorney General to send 
it, stating that ``my own view is that something must be done to 
educate the Senators on the seriousness of this problem. . . .'' Of 
course, the problem he saw was the amendment, not the discrimination it 
was designed to end.
  He also urged the Attorney General to assert his leadership against 
the amendment to section 2. He wrote that the Attorney General should 
``head off

[[Page 20904]]

any retrenchment efforts'' by the White House staff who were inclined 
to support the amendment. He consistently urged the administration to 
require voters to bear the heavy burden of proving discriminatory 
intent in order to overturn practices that locked them out of the 
electoral process.
  Judge Roberts clearly knew that his position would make it harder for 
voters to overturn restrictive voting laws. As he wrote at the time, 
``violations of section 2 should not be made too easy to prove. . . .'' 
That was his quote, remember, when he wrote this there were no African 
Americans elected to Congress from the States with the largest Black 
populations, and only 18 in Congress overall. And there were only 6 
Latinos in Congress. There is no indication in any of his writings on 
the Voting Rights Act that he was the least bit troubled by this 
obvious discrimination.
  The year after section 2 was signed into law, Judge Roberts wrote in 
a memo to the White House counsel that ``we were burned'' by the Voting 
Rights Act legislation, even though it was signed by President Ronald 
  Given his clear record of hostility to this key voting rights 
protection, the public has a right to know if he still holds these 
views. But Judge Roberts gave us hardly a clue.
  When I asked him if he holds these views today, he refused to answer. 
He repeatedly tried to characterize his views as the views of the 
administration. He declined to say whether he agreed with them--then or 
now. That answer strains credibility, when the memos themselves 
declare: ``my own view is that something must be done. . . .''
  In fairness, he did concede that he no longer believes that section 2 
is, to use his words from the 1980s, ``constitutionally suspect.'' But 
the fact that it took almost 20 minutes for him to provide this obvious 
answer to a straightforward yes-or-no question is not reassuring.
  Both Senator Feingold and I tried to find out whether he came to 
agree with the strengthened Voting Rights Act after President Reagan 
signed it into law.
  Even when Senator Feingold asked whether Judge Roberts would 
acknowledge today that he had been wrong to oppose the effects test, he 
refused to give a yes-or-no answer.
  Senator Feingold asked:

       What I'm trying to figure out is, given the fact that 
     you've followed this issue for such a long time, I would 
     think you would have a view at this point about . . . whether 
     the department was right in seeking to keep the intent test 
     or whether time has shown that the effects test is really the 
     more appropriate test.

  Judge Roberts responded:

       I'm certainly not an expert in the area and haven't 
     followed and have no way of evaluating the relative 
     effectiveness of the law as amended or the law as it was 
     prior to 1982.

  So we still don't know whether he supports the basic law against 
voting practices that result in denying voting rights because of race, 
national origin, or language minority status.
  You don't need to be a voting rights expert to say we are better off 
today in an America where persons of color can be elected to Congress 
from any State in the country, as opposed to the America of 1982, in 
which no African American had been elected to Congress since 
Reconstruction from Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, 
South Carolina, Virginia, or Louisiana, because restrictive election 
systems effectively denied African Americans and other minorities the 
equal chance to elect representatives of their choice. In these States, 
African Americans were a third or more of the population, but they were 
effectively blocked from electing any candidate of their choice decade 
after decade throughout the 20th century.
  Yet Judge Roberts repeatedly refused to give even this simple 
reassurance about the act. Is that what he means by the rule of law?
  Another very important area in which Judge Roberts refused to disavow 
his long history of opposition to civil rights is the prevention of 
discrimination by recipients of Federal funds. These laws were adopted 
because, Congress believed, as President Kennedy said in 1963, that 
``[s]imple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers . 
. . contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, 
entrenches, subsidizes, or results in . . . discrimination.'' As an 
assistant to Attorney General William French Smith, John Roberts argued 
that these important laws should be narrowed.
  In fact, his position was even more extreme than the Reagan 
administration's. In 1981, he supported a recommendation to exempt 
institutions from civil rights laws if the only Federal financial 
assistance they received was in the form of loans to their students. 
Under this view, the enormous subsidies the Federal Government gives to 
colleges and universities in the form of Federal financial aid would 
not have been enough to require them to obey the laws against 
discrimination. Can you imagine that? Those were just the type of 
things that President Kennedy was addressing. These are the 
universities, the colleges that are getting all this help and 
assistance from grants and loans which are essential to the running of 
it. He said oh, no, we are going to have to look at the other 
requirements. Because they get all these loans, it is still done 
meaning they have to conform to the nondiscrimination, title XI, the 
women, on hiring on race or the disabled. Let me continue.
  At many private institutions, financial assistance to students was 
the only form of Federal aid, so Judge Roberts' suggestion would have 
left those institutions largely free to discriminate against women, the 
disabled, and minorities in both education and hiring.
  In fact, Judge Roberts's position was so extreme that it was rejected 
by the Reagan administration and later by the Supreme Court. But in his 
testimony, Judge Roberts ignored this aspect of his record. He refused 
even to acknowledge that his past positions had gone beyond the 
administration's. Instead, he stated repeatedly that he was just doing 
his job.
  He said:

       I was articulating and defending the administration's 
     position. . . . The position that the administration advanced 
     was the one I just described. The universities were covered 
     due to Federal financial assistance to their students. It 
     extended to the admissions office.

  That is an accurate statement of the administration's position but 
the view Judge Roberts advanced in his December 8, 1981, memo was quite 
  I also asked whether he still agreed with the statement he made in 
1985, that ``[t]riggering coverage of an institution on the basis of 
its accepting students who receive Federal aid is not too onerous if 
only the admissions office is covered. If the entire institution is to 
be covered, however, it should be on the basis of something more solid 
than Federal aid to the students.''
  Again and again, Judge Roberts refused to say whether he still agrees 
with those words. He said only, ``Well, Senator, the administration 
policy was as I articulated it. And it was my job to articulate the 
administration policy.''
  That is no answer at all. I never asked about the policy of the 
Reagan administration. I asked only whether today, he still believed, 
or would disavow, his earlier position. Given his repeated refusal to 
answer, I can only conclude that he still holds those views today, 
given his failure to respond.
  In other words, his position was the following: It really doesn't 
make a difference, if a university is getting financial aid through 
grants or through loans, that they can go ahead and discriminate if 
they are not going to discriminate in the admissions office. So if they 
do not discriminate in the admissions office, then they can 
discriminate in the other areas of the university.
  That happened to be the holding in the Grove City case. The question 
was: Was that what the Congress meant when it said we were not going to 
provide funds and permit any entities to discriminate? The overwhelming 
majority in the House and the Senate said: That is what we intended. If 
they are going to get this aid and assistance through college loans and 
grants, they can't discriminate against women in sports, against hiring 
of black professors or against the disabled, overwhelmingly.

[[Page 20905]]

  Not Judge Roberts, no, no. He wanted it program specific.
  Say they had 15 in the admissions office, and if they didn't 
discriminate based on race, disability or against women, it doesn't 
make any difference what the rest of the university did.
  That position was absolutely, completely rejected by the 
administration and overwhelmingly in a bipartisan way. We asked Judge 
Roberts now what his position still was on this issue, and we could not 
get an answer.
  In addition, in response to questions from Senator Biden, Judge 
Roberts refused to say he no longer agrees with his former position 
that laws against discrimination should be narrowly interpreted to 
apply only in the parts of the institution that directly receive 
Federal funds. Under this view, a college that received Federal 
financial assistance through its admissions office could not 
discriminate in admissions, but it could discriminate in every other 
aspect of its operations--in hiring teachers, in instructing students, 
and in athletics. When Senator Biden reminded Judge Roberts that he had 
written in 1982 that he ``strongly agreed'' with this view, Judge 
Roberts never said he no longer holds that position. Instead he 
testified under oath, ``So if the view was strongly held, it was 
because I thought that was a correct reading of the law.'' Is that his 
view of the rule of law?
  Another very important area in which Judge Roberts failed to give any 
reassurance was his position protecting women and girls against 
discrimination in educational programs under title IX. In the case of 
Franklin v. Gwinnett County, in 1991, Judge Roberts argued that title 
IX did not allow a high school girl who had been sexually abused by her 
teacher to recover damages. Judge Roberts' argument would have left the 
victim with no remedy at all.
  Senator Leahy asked him, ``Do you now personally agree with and 
accept as binding law the reasoning of Justice White's opinion in 
Franklin v. Gwinnett?'' Judge Roberts replied that, ``It certainly was 
a precedent of the court that I would apply under principles of stare 
  That answer sounds reassuring, until you realize that Judge Roberts 
never answered whether he personally agreed with this unanimous 
decision of the Court.
  Senator Leahy offered Judge Roberts several chances to disavow his 
position in the Franklin case. He asked, ``Do you now accept that 
Justice White's position [in Franklin v. Gwinnett County] was right and 
the government's position was wrong?'' Judge Roberts replied again, ``I 
certainly accept the decision of the court--the 9 to 0 decision, as you 
say--as a binding precedent of the court. Again, I have no cause or 
agenda to revisit it or any quarrel with it.''
  That also sounded reassuring, until I recalled that Justice Thomas 
repeatedly used the same words--``I have no quarrel with it''--to evade 
answers during his nomination hearing. Justice Thomas testified, for 
instance that he had ``no quarrel'' with the test established by the 
Supreme Court in the Lemon v. Kurzman case for analyzing claims under 
the first amendment's prohibition on the establishment of religion. But 
just 2 years later, Justice Thomas joined a dissent ridiculing the test 
and saying it should not be applied, and Justice Thomas has 
consistently opposed the Lemon test ever since.
  I wonder why it was so difficult for Judge Roberts simply to say, 
``Yes, in hindsight, I personally believe that Franklin v. Gwinnett was 
correctly decided, and that victims of intentional sex discrimination 
in educational programs do have a right to relief under title IX.'' Why 
was that so difficult an answer for Judge Roberts to give? Could it be 
that it was contrary to his view of the rule of law?
  Judge Roberts's record is also one of consistent and long-standing 
opposition to affirmative action. In the 1980s, he urged the Reagan 
administration to oppose affirmative action. In the 1990s, in the 
administration of the first President Bush, he urged the Supreme Court 
to overturn a Federal affirmative action program. In private practice 
in the late 1990s and as recently as 2001, he litigated cases 
challenging affirmative action. That includes his repeated challenges 
to the Department of Transportation's disadvantaged business enterprise 
program, which has been upheld by every court that has reviewed it, and 
endorsed overwhelmingly by bipartisan majorities in the House and 
  On affirmative action, his view of the rule of law seems to be that 
established court precedents have little meaning, even though they have 
been found again and again to advance our progress on civil rights.
  In 1981, he advocated abolishing race- and gender-conscious remedies 
for discrimination, although he admitted this position was in 
``tension'' with the Supreme Court's opinion in United Steelworkers of 
America v. Weber, upholding affirmative action in employment--a case 
that had been decided only 2 years earlier. He wrote that the 
administration did not see that opinion--Supreme Court opinion--as a 
``guiding principle.''
  In the same memos dealing with the Weber decision, Judge Roberts even 
suggested that the opinion might be overturned because of changes in 
the Court's composition.
  Given his long and consistent opposition to affirmative action, 
Senators were entitled to seek some reassurance from the nominee that 
he would not use the power of the Chief Justice to continue his past 
efforts to end affirmative action.
  I asked Judge Roberts:

       Do you agree then with Justice O'Connor, writing for the 
     majority, who gave great weight to the real-world impact of 
     affirmative action policies in universities?

  He stated:

       I can certainly say that I do think that that is the 
     appropriate approach, without commenting on the outcome or 
     the judgment in a particular case. But you do need to look at 
     the real-world impact in this area, and I think in other 
     areas as well.

  So he thinks that we should consider real world impact, but he never 
stated whether he agreed with Justice O'Connor that the University of 
Michigan case was correctly decided. On that issue, we don't know any 
more than we did before the hearing.
  Senator Feinstein also asked Judge Roberts his views on affirmative 
action, but he avoided her question as well. She asked, Do you 
personally subscribe, not to quotas, but to measured efforts that can 
withstand strict scrutiny?'' Judge Roberts replied, ``A measured effort 
that can withstand strict scrutiny is . . . a very positive approach.'' 
Well, that sounds as though he agrees, but then he also said, ``And I 
think people will disagree about exactly what the details should be.''
  When Senator Feinstein stated she specifically wanted to know his 
view of Grutter v. Bollinger, the University of Michigan case upholding 
affirmative action, Judge Roberts gave a long--answer that was no 
answer at all. ``In the Michigan case, obviously, you have I always 
forget whether it's the law school--but I think the law school program 
was upheld and the university program was struck down because of the 
differences in the program. But efforts to ensure the full 
participation in all aspects of our society by people, without regard 
to their race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, all those are 
efforts that I think are appropriate.''
  But of course, Senator Feinstein had not asked about efforts to 
ensure participation without regard to race. She asked his view on a 
particular affirmative action program at the University of Michigan Law 
School that took race into account. We still do not know whether he 
agrees with that important Supreme Court decision. His refusal to tell 
us is very troubling.
  I ask unanimous consent for 5 additional minutes.
  Mr. BENNETT. Mr. President, I shall not object, but the junior 
Senator from Massachusetts is looking for time and we are anxious to 
get on to the bill. I will not object to the request for an additional 
5 minutes, but I hope the Senator could, in fact, finish in that 5-
minute time.
  Mr. KENNEDY. I will try and do it in a shorter time.
  I am also troubled by Judge Roberts' refusal to distance himself from 

[[Page 20906]]

past criticism of the very important Supreme Court decision Plyler v. 
Doe that held that the basic principle of equal protection requires all 
school-age children to have the same access to public education, 
including the children of undocumented immigrants. In a very real 
sense, the Plyler decision is as important to the children of 
undocumented workers as the Brown decision is to African-American 
children. Yet Judge Roberts strongly criticized the decision. On the 
day the case was decided, he coauthored a memo criticizing the 
Solicitor General's office for failing to file a brief, arguing that 
these children could be denied public education.
  Senator Durbin asked Judge Roberts:

       Did you agree with the decision . . . then? Or do you agree 
     with the decision now?

  Judge Roberts avoided the question, saying:

       I haven't looked at the decision in the Plyler v. Doe in 23 

  Senator Durbin asked:

       Is this settled law, as far as you are concerned, about our 
     commitment in education . . . ?

  Judge Roberts avoided this, saying he had not looked at the case 
recently, and that when he wrote the memo he was doing his job.
  So we are left with nothing to reassure us he has changed his mind 
from his harsh criticism of that opinion in the past. His many 
statements of support for the rule of law yield no clue about his true 
convictions on this important question today.
  Finally, a number of my colleagues on the committee asked Judge 
Roberts about issues related to women's rights, women's right to 
privacy. On these important matters, too, he never gave answers that 
shed light on his current views.
  No one is entitled to become Chief Justice of the United States. The 
confirmation of nominees to our courts, by and with the advice of the 
Senate, should not require a leap of faith. Nominees must earn their 
confirmation by providing full knowledge of the values and convictions 
they will bring to the decisions that may profoundly affect our 
progress as a nation toward the ideal of equality.
  Judge Roberts has not done so. His repeated allegiance to the rule of 
law reveals little about the values he would bring to the job of Chief 
Justice of the United States. The record we have puts at serious risk 
the progress we have made toward our common American vision of equality 
of opportunity for all of our citizens.
  Supporting or opposing nominees in the Supreme Court should not be a 
partisan issue. In my 43 years in the Senate, I have supported more 
nominees for the Supreme Court by Republican Presidents than by 
Democratic Presidents, but there is clear and convincing evidence that 
Judge Roberts is the wrong choice for Chief Justice.
  I oppose the nomination. I urge my colleagues to do the same.
  Mr. BENNETT. Mr. President, the order now is that we go to the 
Agriculture appropriations bill. I ask unanimous consent the junior 
Senator from Massachusetts be allowed to speak for 15 minutes as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Graham). Without objection, it is so 
  The Senator from Massachusetts.
  Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, we all know there are few things the Senate 
does which are as important as confirming a Supreme Court Justice, let 
alone the Chief Justice of the United States. We know that making the 
decision to support or oppose the nomination is both serious and 
complicated. We do not need to belabor those points.
  What we do need to talk about is what kind of process ought to occur, 
must occur, before a Senator can vote for or against a judicial 
nominee. What kind of information should be provided? What kind of 
discourse should we engage in?
  I met with Judge Roberts last week. I must say I enjoyed our 
conversation enormously. He is earnest, friendly, incredibly 
intelligent, and on a personal level I liked him. He has dedicated his 
life to the law, has given back to the legal community, and is 
certainly beyond question a superb lawyer. It may turn out he will be 
an outstanding Chief Justice. But I can't say with confidence that I 
know on a sufficient number of critical constitutional issues how he 
would rule or what his legal approach would be. I have read memos he 
wrote during the Reagan administration. I have reviewed the limited 
materials available from his time in the Solicitor General's office, 
where he worked under Ken Starr, and then in private practice at Hogan 
and Hartson. I have read the cases he participated in on the DC 
Circuit. I have listened to as much of the Judiciary Committee hearings 
as I could and I have reviewed transcripts where I couldn't.
  After all of that, I still find something essential is missing, 
something critical to our democratic process, something to ensure that 
we have an appropriate understanding of both our courts and our judges 
and their role in America. That understanding requires a genuine 
exchange of information and a real development of ideas, similar, in 
fact, to that which occurs in every argument at the Supreme Court 
itself or in the appellate courts.
  In appellate arguments, judges and Justices question lawyers, probing 
the depth of their legal arguments, testing their particular legal 
argument against the court's, or determining how it fits into their 
interpretation of the Constitution. They determine how interpretive 
principles apply and how they can reconcile apparently conflicting 
arguments. They make a judgment about the consequences of a potential 
outcome. The result in the end is a better understanding of the record 
before the court and, hopefully, a principled approach to deciding the 
  Judge Roberts' Judiciary Committee hearings, notwithstanding the 
efforts of the Chair and many other of the Senators partaking in it, 
continue an increasingly sterile confirmation process: little genuine 
legal engagement between the questioners and the questioned, no real 
exchange of information, and too little substantive discussion. The 
confirmation exercise has now become little more than an empty shell. 
People are left guessing, hoping they understand the nominee's 
  The administration's steadfast refusal to disclose documents Judge 
Roberts worked on while serving as a Deputy Solicitor General in the 
first Bush administration has only compounded this problem. They claim 
disclosure of the documents will violate attorney-client privilege. I 
find that argument absurd. What client are they trying to protect? The 
Solicitor General represents the people of the United States of 
America. He is charged with arguing cases on behalf of all Americans. 
We were Judge Roberts' client when he worked in the Solicitor General's 
office. We have a right to know what he thought about the arguments he 
made on behalf of the American people.
  When John Roberts served as a Deputy Solicitor General under Ken 
Starr, he was intimately involved in critical decisions that office 
made, such as whether to intervene in a pending case; what legal 
arguments to advance in support of their position; whether to push for 
Supreme Court review; what the consequences of those arguments or that 
action would be; how those arguments fit into their theory of 
constitutional interpretation, whether those arguments reflect the 
views of the American people--all of these decisions are critical to an 
individual's thinking, to their approach to the law, to their 
understanding of public trust and public responsibility, to their 
understanding of the Constitution itself. All of these decisions helped 
to shape how Federal law was applied and how our Constitution was 
interpreted during that period of time.
  The fact is, there are bureaucrats, none of whom take an oath, as we 
do, to uphold the Constitution, who are aware of the contents of those 
particular memoranda. Yet we, the Senators, who are constitutionally 
obligated to give consent to this nominee, still do not know what 
positions Judge Roberts took, the arguments he made, or the thinking 
behind those arguments.
  For example, the Solicitor General's office decided to intervene in 
Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic. That case was brought against 
abortion clinic protesters during the height

[[Page 20907]]

of clinic violence and bombings. The plaintiffs argued that protesters 
were violating a Federal antidiscrimination law by blocking access to 
clinics and inciting violence. The Government intervened and argued 
that the Federal antidiscrimination law did not apply and, therefore, 
could not be used to stop the protesters.
  Judge Roberts briefed and argued the case for the Government. I 
believe the arguments advanced by the Government and the consequences 
of those arguments are troubling, but what we do not know is even more 
important: What role did Judge Roberts play in making them? What did he 
think about that approach? Did he consider the consequences on life, 
limb, and individual? Did he argue for a more narrow or broad 
interpretation of the law?
  At the same time, the Solicitor General's office intervened in a 
district court case in Wichita, KS, which raised the same issues that 
the Supreme Court in Bray was facing. The Government tried to get the 
district court to lift an injunction put in place to protect the safety 
of the clinic workers and patients. They argued that the plaintiffs 
could not win and, therefore, the injunction was improper. The district 
court denied the Government's request and chastised it for 
unnecessarily endangering people's lives. Those are the real 
consequences. We ought to know what kind of thinking, what were the 
legal approaches to the protection of those individuals' lives.
  The question still remains, what role did Judge Roberts have in 
making that decision? What was the legal reasoning that prompted it? 
Did he consider the real-life dangers that would result from that legal 
  The Solicitor General's office is never obligated to intervene in 
private litigation. There are thousands of cases pending every day like 
these questions. Why did the Government choose to intervene in those 
particular cases? And, even more importantly, what role did Judge 
Roberts have in making that decision?
  The administration's refusal to disclose those documents, in my 
judgment, creates a serious roadblock in the Senate's ability to 
properly evaluate Judge Roberts. But Judge Roberts' refusal to 
genuinely engage in the confirmation hearings, answer legitimate 
questions, or at least shed light on them creates a bigger one.
  I understand a Supreme Court nominee cannot answer questions about a 
case in controversy, cannot answer questions about a case that may well 
come before him, and I understand that he can't promise to resolve a 
future case in a particular way. I am not asking him to do that. I 
don't expect that to be the standard of the hearings.
  But that does not mean you can't discuss the principles of decided 
cases and whether you agree with them. What legal principles do you 
bring to the job? It doesn't mean you should refuse to disclose an 
approach to constitutional analysis. It doesn't mean you should do 
nothing more than recite the status of current Supreme Court case law.
  This is not the first time the Supreme Court nominees have refused to 
engage in that kind of meaningful discourse. Justice Souter refused to 
answer fundamental questions about his judicial philosophy. For that 
reason I voted against him at that time. I am happy to say I have been 
surprised, and pleasantly, that my concerns did not come to pass. 
Justice Thomas also refused to answer fundamental questions about 
judicial philosophy. As I said at the time, Justice Thomas found a lot 
of ways to say ``I don't know'' or ``I disagree'' or ``I cannot agree'' 
or ``I can't say whether I agree.'' I voted against Justice Thomas 
because again I didn't know what the end product was going to be. I 
believe I was correct in making that decision.
  At the end of the day I find myself in the same position I was with 
both of these Justices. Notwithstanding Judge Roberts' impressive legal 
resume, I can't say with confidence that I know what specific 
constitutional approach he believes in or what kind of Chief Justice he 
will be. Will he protect the civil rights and civil liberties we fought 
for so long and hard, which he acknowledged in the course of the 
hearings? Will he support the power of Congress to enact critical 
environmental legislation? Will he be an effective check on executive 
branch actions? In my judgment, before you vote for Chief Justice, 
particularly one who may lead a court for potentially 30 years or more, 
we ought to know the answers to those fundamental questions. In the 
case of Judge Roberts, we don't.
  For example, I don't know how Judge Roberts will approach cases 
challenging the power of Congress to enact vital national legislation. 
I understand that terms such as the ``Commerce Clause,'' ``Section 5 of 
the 14th Amendment,'' and ``Spending Clause'' don't mean a lot to 
everybody in the country on a daily basis. But however technical and 
legalistic the discussion of those terms may be, they are critical to 
us in our judgments as Senators about how our Government functions. A 
Justice with a limited view of congressional power will undermine 
Congress's ability to respond to national problems.
  For example, under the commerce clause, Congress can only regulate 
things that affect interstate commerce. When Congress enacted the 
Violence Against Women Act in 1996, it made numerous very specific 
findings about how that violence affected interstate commerce. The 
Court found those findings insufficient and struck down that piece of 
  When asked by Senator Specter whether he agreed with the Court in 
this case, Judge Roberts refused to answer. When asked whether he would 
have found similar congressional findings insufficient, Judge Roberts 
refused to answer. I believe those answers ought to have been 
forthcoming, particularly when they address how Judge Roberts would 
interpret Congress's fundamental constitutional powers.
  Judge Roberts has shed some light himself on his view of the commerce 
clause because he wrote about it in a dissenting opinion on the DC 
Circuit. In Rancho Viejo v. Norton, the so-called ``hapless toad 
case,'' Roberts suggested that the Endangered Species Act, as applied 
to the California toads at issue, might be unconstitutional because 
they had an insufficient connection to interstate commerce.
  He also suggested there might be other ways of looking at the case to 
preserve the act's constitutionality. When asked about it during the 
hearings, and again personally in my own meeting with him, Judge 
Roberts did not endorse one view or the other. He gave no sense of how 
he might interpret Congress's power and its limitations.
  While his refusal to completely condemn the Endangered Species Act 
was obviously somewhat reassuring, at the end of the day, I am left 
without any real understanding of how he would approach a commerce 
clause question. I have no idea whether he will undermine Congress's 
ability to pass needed legislation. I have no idea how he will approach 
challenges to existing Federal environmental laws, such as the 
Endangered Species Act. Which of the possible approaches he laid out in 
Rancho Viejo does he believe is the most correct? This certainly 
creates a risk I personally am unwilling to accept when voting to 
confirm the next Chief Justice of the United States.
  Another area of great concern to me is obviously the area of privacy, 
an area where Judge Roberts skillfully answered a lot of questions 
without giving a hint as to his own position. For example, while 
Roberts admitted that the Court has recognized that privacy is 
protected under the Constitution as part of the liberty in the due 
process clause, he refused to give any indication of what he thought 
about the Court's most recent decisions.
  The furthest he went was to say he had no quarrel with the decisions 
in Griswold and Eisenstadt, yet this kind of endorsement is not 
reassuring. In his confirmation hearings, Justice Thomas agreed that 
the Court had found a constitutional right to privacy. Like Judge 
Roberts, he also stated he had no quarrel with the Court's holding in 
Eisenstadt. Yet when he got to the Supreme Court, he disavowed the very 
rights he had said the Constitution protected.

[[Page 20908]]

  In fact, more recently in Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Thomas stated he 
could not ``find [neither in the Bill of Rights nor any other part of 
the Constitution a] general right of privacy.'' The bottom line is I do 
not know how Judge Roberts will approach those questions with respect 
to the fundamental right of privacy.
  In addition to what I do not know, what I do know about Judge Roberts 
also raises issues. I know in the early 1980s, while he worked in the 
Department of Justice and White House Counsel's Office, Judge Roberts 
took an active role in advocating on behalf of administration policies 
that would have greatly undermined our civil rights and liberties.
  Mr. President, how much time do I have remaining?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
  Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, may I ask for an additional few minutes? 
Thank you.
  For example, Judge Roberts argued against using the ``effects test'' 
to determine whether section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was violated. 
Instead, he believed that an ``intent'' test--requiring proof of a 
discriminatory motive--should be required, regardless of the fact that 
many victims of discrimination would be absolutely unable to prove a 
real discriminatory intent and, therefore, would be unable to enjoy the 
protections afforded by the act. In some cases, the effect of Judge 
Roberts' intent test meant that disenfran-
chised individuals had to prove the motive of long dead officials who 
had crafted the legislation. Obviously, that is impossible. So he would 
have set up an unacceptable standard, one that would come between 
citizens and their constitutionally protected right to fair 
representation in our democracy.
  Judge Roberts also argued that the obligations imposed on educational 
institutions by title IX should apply only to the specific program that 
received Federal funding rather than to the whole institution. Again, 
by limiting the application of an important antidiscrimination law, 
there is an effect, which is to deny people their constitutional right.
  In the area of affirmative action, Judge Roberts argued in favor of 
limiting race-conscious remedies to instances where individuals were 
proven to be the victims of identifiable acts of impermissible 
  I realize Judge Roberts took the positions I just described some time 
ago. I know he told the Judiciary Committee he was simply advocating 
the views of the administration at the time. But I think those of us 
who have worked in and around Government for a period of time find it 
hard to believe that a staffer at Justice or in the White House never 
wrote a memo that represented some of his views rather than just 
administration positions, particularly when the theme of those memos is 
consistent across the board--strict adherence to narrow principles of 
law despite their real-world impact, and particularly when some of the 
memos released from this time include acknowledgements by Judge Roberts 
that his own position failed to prevail in the internal deliberations.
  That was certainly true when he argued, unsuccessfully, within the 
administration that Congress could strip the Federal courts of 
jurisdiction over abortion and desegregation cases.
  I will conclude, Mr. President. I do not want to abuse the Senator's 
permissiveness here. Let me close with this particular argument.
  Judge Roberts' more recent decision to join to Judge Randolph's 
opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld is important with respect to the security 
consequences regarding the military and our soldiers. That opinion gave 
the President unfettered and unreviewable authority to place captured 
individuals outside the protections of the Geneva Convention. Six 
retired senior military officials with extensive experience in legal 
policy, the laws of war, and armed conflict, have filed a friend-of-
the-court brief in the Supreme Court, arguing that Hamdan must be 
overturned immediately because it directly endangers American soldiers. 
These are the real effects of these rigid applications of law.
  I understand that Judge Roberts felt he could not discuss the case 
while it was pending before the Supreme Court, but even when asked 
about his views of the scope of executive power unrelated to the Hamdan 
case, he was evasive. He did little more than describe the Court's 
current framework for analyzing assertions of executive power.
  As a result, I do not know whether he believes that the state of war 
is a blank check for the President or whether he would closely 
scrutinize the legality of executive branch actions at all times. Given 
the fact that the Hamdan decision placed our troops at risk, I am 
forced to conclude that some of his future decisions might threaten the 
security of troops abroad and our security at home.
  Now, some may argue that Democrats ought to vote for Judge Roberts 
because he is the best nominee we could expect from the administration. 
I cannot agree to confirm the next Chief Justice of the United States 
simply because the next nominee to the Court may be less protective of 
our fundamental rights or liberties or less dangerous to national 
security. Frankly, I am not sure how I would make that determination 
given the limited record before me.
  Some may argue that Democrats should vote for Judge Roberts because 
of his resume. He obviously is qualified in terms of his legal 
education and litigation experience. But I do not think that should be 
the test. A Supreme Court Justice needs more qualifications than an 
impressive legal resume. They need compassion and sensitivity. They 
need a clarity with respect to their approach to the Constitution. They 
need an understanding of the consequences of their decisions and how 
they further democratic traditions.
  As a Senator, I am duty bound to consider each nominee as an 
individual and how he or she will fit into the current Court--the 
current closely divided Supreme Court. I have a duty to protect the 
fundamental rights I believe our Constitution guarantees. I have a duty 
to preserve the incredible progress that has been made toward the 
realization of those rights for Americans. I have a duty to safeguard 
our national security, and to prevent the executive from using war as a 
blank check to violate both national and international law.
  John Roberts will be confirmed. I hope and look forward to decisions 
that will allay all of my concerns. He may author or join opinions 
protecting the rights which we hold so dear, and in so doing he may 
prove all of my concerns to be groundless. I hope so. But the questions 
I have raised, the absence of critical documents, the lack of clarity 
surrounding fundamental issues on how he would interpret the 
Constitution, requires me to fulfill my constitutional duty by opposing 
his nomination to be the next Chief Justice.
  I thank the Chair again, and I thank the Senator for his courtesy.