Excerpts of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
"Your nomination to the Supreme Court has to be among the least surprising ever made. And I don't want to take any suspense out of these proceedings, but things are looking good for your confirmation."
"The court can exercise discretion wisely, but to do so it must balance competing constitutional values, not just apply a favored ideology. And the court can bring truly justice, but only if it approaches each case without predisposition or bias.
Unfortunately, the conservative wing of the current Supreme Court has departed from those great institutional traditions. Precedents, whether of old or recent vintage, have been discarded at a startling rate. Statutes passed by Congress have been tossed aside with little hesitation, and constitutional questions of enormous import have been taken up hastily and needlessly."
"Only last week, the Rent-A-Center decision concluded that an employee who challenges as unconscionable an arbitration demand must have that challenge decided by the arbitrator. And the Citizens United decision -- yet another 5-4 decision -- created a constitutional right for corporations to spend unlimited money in American elections, opening our democratic system to a massive new threat of corruption and corporate control.
There is an unmistakable pattern. For all the talk of umpires and balls and strikes at the Supreme Court, the strike zone for corporations gets better every day."
"When the forces of society are arrayed against you; when lobbyists have the legislature tied in knots; when the governor's mansion is in the pockets of special interests; when the owners of the local paper have marshalled popular opinion against you, one last sanctuary still remains the jury."
"Now, powerful corporations don't like the jury. They don't like the fact that they too must stand before a group of ordinary citizens without the advantage of all the influence that money can buy."
"Sadly, the Supreme Court seems to be buying what corporations are selling. The Exxon v. Baker decision which arose from the terrible Exxon Valdez spill rejected a jury's award of $5 billion in punitive damages, just one year's profits for Exxon, and reduced the award by 90 percent. Anything more than the compensatory damage award, the court reasoned, would make punitive damages too unpredictable for corporations."
"I mention these concerns to you, Solicitor General Kagan, because, if confirmed, you will make decisions that affect every aspect of Americans' lives. If confirmed, I hope and trust that you will adhere to the best institutional traditions of the Supreme Court and act with a clear understanding of the proper role of all the institutions of government provided for us by our founding fathers.
It is a great Constitution we have inherited. And you will be a great justice if you interpret our Constitution in the light of its founding purpose rather than according to the preferences of today's most powerful interests."
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