Remembering How Sen. Patrick Leahy Handled Clarence Thomas

When President George H.W. Bush nominated U.S. Appeals Court docket Decide Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court docket in 1991, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa each served on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

They nonetheless serve there right now.

However Leahy, who’s 82, is just not operating for reelection this 12 months. Grassley, who turns 89 subsequent month, is.

How Leahy and Grassley dealt with Thomas’ affirmation course of will assist outline their legacies.

Grassley sought to find out whether or not Thomas would legislate from the bench or search to use the regulation as supposed by the legislature that enacted it.

“In my first query, I hope that you’ll reaffirm what you mentioned alongside this line in your affirmation hearings for the Court docket of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit,” mentioned Grassley.

“You mentioned, ‘The final word aim ought to at all times be to use the need of Congress, the need of the legislature, I don’t assume it’s ever acceptable for a decide to exchange the intent of the legislature along with his or her personal intent.’

“Is that one thing you possibly can reaffirm right now, after being on the circuit courtroom of appeals?” Grassley requested.

“Senator,” Thomas responded, “after I spoke these phrases in my affirmation listening to for the courtroom of appeals, in fact, I had not been a decide. However now I can reaffirm these phrases with the expertise of getting needed to be a decide and having needed to decide in some troublesome circumstances.

“I don’t consider that there’s room in opinions in our work of judging for the private predilections, the private opinions and views of judges,” Thomas continued.

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“I feel within the statutory building, the final word aim for us is to find out the need of the legislature, the intent of the legislature, not what we’d have changed the legislative enactment with, if we had been within the legislature, and now we have no function in legislating,” mentioned Thomas.

In his personal opening assertion, against this, Leahy warned Thomas that he wished to know the way Thomas would legislate from the bench on the problem of abortion.

“Let me make this very clear, Decide Thomas,” mentioned Leahy. “In recent times, now we have danced across the query of the place nominees stand on a ladies’s elementary proper to decide on an abortion. This is likely one of the burning social problems with our time. It’s the single problem about which this committee and the American individuals most urgently want to know the nominees’ views. And but the Senate and the Nation have been pissed off by well mannered—albeit respectful—stonewalling.”

When it was Leahy’s flip to query Thomas, he tried to pressure the decide into taking a place on the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade and abortion.

He failed.

Referring particularly to Roe, Leahy requested Thomas: “Properly, was it correctly determined or not?”

“Senator, I feel that that’s the place I simply must say what I’ve mentioned earlier than; that to touch upon the holding in that case would compromise my potential to—.”

Leahy interrupted him. “Let me ask you this: Have you ever made any determination in your individual thoughts whether or not you’re feeling Roe v. Wade was correctly determined or not, with out stating what that call is?”

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“I’ve not made, Senator, a choice in some way with respect to that essential determination,” mentioned Thomas.

Thomas was finally confirmed on a 52 to 48 vote. Leahy was among the many 48 who voted no. Grassley voted sure.

Fifteen years later, when the Senate voted 58 to 42 to substantiate Justice Samuel Alito, Leahy was once more among the many no votes and Grassley was among the many sure votes. Eleven years after that, when the Senate voted 54 to 45 to substantiate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Leahy once more voted no and Grassley voted sure.

When the Senate voted 50 to 48 to substantiate Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, and 52 to 48 to substantiate Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, the identical sample held.

This Might, a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Girls’s Well being Group was leaked earlier than the Supreme Court docket was able to launch it. It reviewed a Mississippi regulation that banned abortion after 15 weeks and confirmed the courtroom totally overturning Roe and returning the problem of abortion to state legislatures.

Leahy, it will end up when the ultimate opinion was launched, had opposed all 5 justices who voted to overturn Roe—Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.

On Might 11, the Girls’s Well being Safety Act was introduced up on the Senate flooring. It might have legalized abortion nationwide. However 60 votes had been wanted to finish debate and maintain a closing vote.

Leahy, in fact, voted for cloture. However solely 48 senators joined him. Grassley was not certainly one of them.

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Talking on the ground, Leahy expressed his disgust with the Senate for failing to advance the reason for killing unborn infants.

“I’m the dean of the Senate,” declared Leahy. “I’m the longest serving Member of this physique right now.”

Whereas noting that Vermont would hold abortion authorized, he declared: “The unlucky actuality is that 26 different States stand able to ban abortion rights within the absence of Roe. What are the ladies of those States to do?”

He then—maybe unintentionally—appeared to check with the unborn human beings that pregnant lady “bear” as “kids.”

“And what legal guidelines are these States ready to cross—what assets are they ready to offer—to assist these ladies and the kids they’ll bear?” Leahy requested.

“Disgrace on this Senate right now,” he mentioned.

No. The disgrace is on Leahy.

Historical past will keep in mind him for searching for to perpetuate the legalized killing of harmless unborn kids.

COPYRIGHT 2022 TERENCE P. JEFFREY

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