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Key Excerpt: Cardin and Sotomayor on Separtion of Powers

Courtesy of CQ Transcriptions

SEN. CARDIN: During your testimony yesterday, you made it clear that you understand that senators and members of Congress elected by the people are the ones making policy by passing laws. And you also made it clear that judges apply the laws enacted and that they should do so or at least they should do so with deference to the intent of Congress.

Yet we've seen in recent decisions of the Supreme Court like the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. United States that they have forced the EPA to drop more than 500 cases against alleged polluters. These decisions have impact.

And it -- it -- it is clear to many of us that they reject longstanding legal interpretations in the federal Clean Water Act -- was done by the Supreme Court in ignoring the science that served as the foundations for the laws passed by Congress and the intent of Congress to protect American people by providing them with clean water, clean air and a healthy environment. As the senator from Maryland I'm particularly concerned about that as it relates to the efforts that we're making on the Chesapeake Bay.

Now, I understand that these decisions are now precedent and they are binding and that it may very well require the Congress to pass laws further clarifying what we meant to say so that we can try to get us back on track. I understand that. But I would like you to comment and I hope reinforce the point that you have said that in reaching decisions that come to the bench, whether they're environmental laws or other laws that protect our society, you will follow the intent of Congress and will not try to supplant individual judgment that would restrict the protections that Congress has passed for our community.

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: Believe my case -- my cases, my entire record shows that I look at the acts of Congress, as I think the Supreme Court does, with deference because that is the bedrock of our constitutional system, which is that each branch has different set of constitutional powers, that deference must be given to the rights of each branch in each situation that is exercising its powers. And to the extent that the court has a role -- because it does have a role -- to ensuring that the Constitution is followed, it attempts to do that. When I say attempt -- but it always attempts it with a recognition of the deference it owes to the elected branches in terms of setting policy and making law.

CARDIN: Thank you for that -- for that response.

Read the entire exchange between Sen. Cardin and Judge Sotomayor here.

By Washington Post editors  |  July 15, 2009; 10:55 AM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court  
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