Senate Democrats

Reid Floor Statement on the Nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Last night the President announced that he will nominate Judge John G. Roberts of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to the United States Supreme Court. I congratulate Judge Roberts on this high honor.

Now the Senate begins the process of deciding whether to confirm John Roberts to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the final guardian of the rights and liberties of all Americans. Serving on the Court is an awesome responsibility, and the Constitution gives the Senate the final say in whether a nominee deserves that trust. We should perform our constitutional role with great care.

John Roberts has had an impressive legal career. Both in government and in private practice, he has been a zealous and often successful advocate for his clients. He has argued many cases before the Supreme Court and is respected for his legal skills. By all accounts he is a very nice man.

But while these are important qualities, they do not automatically qualify John Roberts to serve on the highest court in the land. Nor does the fact that he was confirmed to serve on the court of appeals mean that he is entitled to be promoted. The standard for confirmation to the Supreme Court is very high. A nominee must demonstrate a commitment to the core American values of freedom, equality and fairness. Senators must be convinced that the nominee will respect constitutional principles and protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.

The expectations for Judge Roberts are especially high because he has such large shoes to fill. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has been a voice of reason and moderation on the Court for 24 years. She has been the deciding vote on some of the most important questions in our society – questions of civil rights, civil liberties, the right to privacy and the First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion. Justice O’Connor should only be replaced by someone who, like her, is firmly in the constitutional mainstream.

To gather the information it needs to make this decision, the Senate turns first to the Judiciary Committee. I am confident that Chairman Specter and Ranking Member Leahy will ensure a thorough review of Judge Roberts’s record and his views. Clearly a judicial nominee should not comment on pending cases, but there are many other questions a nominee should answer. I encourage Judge Roberts to be forthcoming in responding to the Committee’s questions and in providing written materials requested by Senators.

In the end, Judge Roberts must demonstrate to the Senate that he is a worthy successor to Justice O’Connor. To do that, he must win the confidence of the American people that he will be a reliable defender of their constitutional rights. John Roberts has argued many cases in his career, but this is the most important.

Ever since Justice O’Connor announced her retirement I have called on the President to choose a nominee who can unite the country, not divide it. It remains to be seen whether John Roberts fits that description. I hope that he does, and I look forward to giving him the opportunity to make his case to the American people.