Nelson, Reed, Grassley

Executive Session (Gorsuch Nomination)

Senator Nelson: (4:28 p.m.)

  • Spoke on the situation in Venezuela.
    • "This is supposed to be a democracy and yet it being run as a dictatorship where even the judicial branch goes and does something crazy and the president of the country gets up and tells them, you better reverse yourself there's too much criticism. This is the nonsense going on in Venezuela and, of course, what went on last week further undermines Venezuela's so-called democracy and its only the latest in President Maduro's creeping dictatorship, and that's what it is. Because he was repeatedly and violently suppressed protesters and jailed his political opponents in violation of any understanding of human rights. And he's used that same supreme court to block members of the national assembly from taking office and he has used that supreme court as a rubber stamp to overturn the laws that the national assembly does that he doesn't like. Isn't it a sad state that Venezuela has reached. The president has also thwarted opposition efforts to recall him, President Maduro, in a national referendum, and in so doing, he was able to appoint a vice president with ties to Hezbollah and now a vice president that appears he has sanctioned drug trafficking. Meanwhile the poor Venezuelan people suffer the consequences of the political, the humanitarian and the economic crisis. Venezuelans are dying because of severe shortages of food and medicine and other products. The economy is in free fall and crime and corruption are rampant."
  • Spoke on the Affordable Care Act
    • "But there needs to be fixes to the law known as the Affordable Care Act that was passed several years ago. And indeed one of those fixes could be a kind of smoothing fund that has the insurance companies vie for this business on the state exchanges, that they would be able to have this fund as a resource for them to get over some of the humps. Also, certainly for some of the insureds. Just because you're at 400% of poverty and, therefore, no longer eligible for some of the subsidies to enable you to buy health insurance and, by the way, for a single individual, that's only about $47,000 a year of income, that person that makes $47,000, $50,000 a year, they can't afford to go out and spend $8,000, $10,000, $11,000 on a health insurance policy. So we need to adjust that or in other words, fix that as well. There needs to be some additional fix of a subsidy there for the people that are just over 400% of poverty. Translate that another way for a family of four, that's only about $95,000 a year. And on a tight budget like that, they simply can't afford health insurance. They need some help. So with a few little fixes like that to the existing law, the affordable care act, we could get this thing tuned up and indeed continue to provide what we need in order for people to have health care."

 

Senator Reed: (4:43 p.m.)

  • Spoke on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
    • "The Gorsuch nomination lacks the traditional level of support required for a Supreme Court seat, and the majority leader has chosen a step that Democrats clearly and emphatically rejected when we needed to confirm nominees who had broad support but were blocked because they were submitted by President Obama. I had hoped it was not too late for cooler heads to prevail. Unfortunately, adherence to the principle of 60 votes for consideration as a justice of the Supreme Court and indeed the existing rule in the Senate was ignored and we are at this impasse. Since many have drawn a false equivalence between the so-called nuclear option vote of several years ago and what occurred today, let me take a moment to explain from my part why I very reluctantly supported a change to Senate precedent for nominees other than the Supreme Court in 2013. During President Obama's tenure, Republicans necessitated more cloture votes than were taken under every previous president combined. Let me Republicans necessitated more cloture votes than any other previous president combined, from George Washington to George W. Bush. Republicans demanded cloture votes 79 times over five years. In contrast from the Founding Fathers all the way through George W. Bush, the Senate only faced that situation 68 times. Republicans obstructed Obama nominees more in five years than the Senate obstructed all nominees combined in two centuries."

 

Senator Grassley: (4:57 p.m.)

  • Spoke on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
    • "My view in 2013 was that Majority Leader Reid had effectively eliminated the filibuster for both lower court nominees and the Supreme Court. And here's the reason. There are two circumstances where this issue might conceivably arise. Either you have a Democrat in the White House and a Democrat-controlled Senate or where you would have a Republican in the White House and a Republican-led Senate. In the first, there's a Democrat in the White House, and the party led by Leader Reid and leader in waiting Schumer was in the majority, and if for some extraordinary reason Senate Republicans chose to filibuster the nominee, there is no question that a Majority Leader Reid or a Majority Leader Schumer would change the rules. Now, I don't believe that this particular circumstance would ever arise because our side doesn't believe in filibustering Supreme Court nominees. I have never voted to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee, not once, and I think I have a pretty good sense of the rest of our caucus. Our side just doesn't believe in it. It's not much more complicated than that simple commonsense statement I just made. And of course even if for some extraordinary reason our side did choose to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee, we don't have to speculate as to whether the other side would have changed the precedent with respect to the Supreme Court. Last year, when everyone thought that Secretary Clinton was going to win the election, their own vice-presidential candidate said that they would change the rules if they needed to if we had a Republican filibuster."