Sasse Rises Above

The Weekly Standard
September 4, 2018

Ben Sassedelivers remarks as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s appears for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee September 4, 2018.

Amid the Kavanaugh hearing chaos, the Nebraska senator offers a much-needed civics lesson.

Day one of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings are stretching into their sixth hour, and we’ve hardly heard a word yet from the nominee himself. Instead, we’ve largely been subjected to a punishing slog of senatorial grandstanding, with members of both parties trading rhetorical barbs and dissertations on the importance of the day, set to a soundtrack of scolding and shrieking protestors being escorted one-by-one from the chamber. (Senator Mike Lee, to his credit, instead treated listeners to a slightly boring but informative history of how the Supreme Court confirmation process shaped up over the last hundred years.)

But Senator Ben Sasse took a different approach, eschewing the partisan bickering to offer a Schoolhouse Rock-tinged civics lesson on why SCOTUS proceedings had grown so contentious in the first place. In Sasse’s telling, the reason Democrats have been losing their minds at the prospect of the exceedingly staid and competent Kavanaugh wasn’t because he is a moral monster, or because they are. It’s because Congress has abdicated so much of its lawmaking authority to executive-branch bureaucracies and the courts that Supreme Court nominees have become tantamount to dictators-for-life.

“Really, the reason these hearings don’t work is not because of Donald Trump. It’s not because of anything in the last 20 months. These confirmation hearings haven’t worked for 31 years in America,” Sasse said. “The hysteria around Supreme Court confirmation hearings is coming from the fact that we have a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court in American life now.”

Sasse said that Americans have come to view and evaluate justices not just as impartial arbiters of complicated legal texts, but as the primary drivers of national policy change. This in turn, he said, has been the result of decades of Congress punting lawmaking authority to the courts.

“Judge Kavanaugh doesn’t hate women and children,” Sasse said. “Judge Kavanaugh doesn’t lust after dirty water and stinky air. No, looking at his record, it seems to me that what he actually dislikes are legislators that are too lazy and risk-averse to do our actual jobs. It seems to me that if you read his 300-plus opinions, what his opinions reveal is a dissatisfaction, I think he would argue a Constitutionally compelled dissatisfaction, with power-hungry executive-branch bureaucrats doing our job when we fail to do it.

“And in this view, I think he’s aligned with the founders, for our Constitution places power not in the hands of this city’s bureaucracy, which can’t be fired, but our Constitution places the policy-making power in the 535 of our hands, because the voters can hire and fire us. And if the voters are going to retain their power, they need a legislature that’s responsive to politics, not a judiciary that’s responsive to politics.”

Watch the video: 

Rhetoric claiming Brett Kavanaugh “hates women, hates children” is indicative of an overly political Supreme Court nomination process, Sen. Ben Sasse said Tuesday in his opening statement at Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing.


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