Senate Judiciary Committee
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Assault Weapons Ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). While the hearing didn’t have the fireworks the media was looking for, it did give Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who is in his first weeks in Washington, a chance to shine.
Cruz brilliantly explained that the Assault Weapons Ban is a “singularly ineffective piece of legislation.” Cruz then noted that those pushing the legislation are misleading Americans with their rhetoric by making them believe that machine guns, which are already illegal, are what they’re target.
You can watch Cruz’s full remarks and questions to witnesses before the committee — and believe me, you want to catch every minute of this:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who apparently has received an assurance from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the chamber will vote on her gun control proposal, will hold her own hearing on the issue because she isn’t happy with the witnesses slated to testify on the Hill today:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), unhappy with the witnesses slated to testify at Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing on guns, will hold her own hearing on her proposed ban on assault weapons.
“I’m concerned and registered my concern with Sen. [Patrick] Leahy yesterday, that the witnesses are skewed to the anti-gun, anti-assault weapons position,” Feinstein told POLITICO. “He agreed that I would be able to do my own hearing on the assault weapons legislation which I will proceed to do.”
Wednesday’s witnesses include NRA President Wayne La Pierre; Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, Nicholas Johnson, law professor at Fordham University School of Law; James Johnson, chief of police for Baltimore County; Gayle Trotter, general counsel of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum.
Feinstein said she has not yet set a date for the hearing.
At least she wants to have a more pro-gun view represented, right? Regardless of her intentions, Feinstein’s bill has little chance of actually passing the Senate and almost no chance of passing the House.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Friday, Supreme Court Justice Anontin Scalia indicated that federal drug laws have had the unintended consequence of hurting the federal court system:
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the expansion of federal narcotics laws Wednesday, saying that the large number of drug cases has diluted the quality of the federal justice system.
“It was a great mistake to put routine drug offenses into the federal courts,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee at an unusual hearing that brought Justice Scalia and Justice Stephen Breyer to discuss with senators the judiciary’s role in the constitutional system.
Justice Scalia said routine drug cases belong in state courts, which handle the vast majority of trials for most criminal offenses. The Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), himself a former state prosecutor, agreed.
The increase in federal criminal law has required Congress to enlarge the federal court system, and Justice Scalia suggested that has helped diminish the “elite” quality of the federal judiciary.
Scalia is right (he was also right with his comments on divided government during the same hearing), of course, but this pragmatic point-of-view rings hollow given that the Reagan-appointed justice is partially responsible for continuing federal drug law when he cast voted with the majority in Gonzales v. Raich, a 2005 case where the federal government successfully argued that Congress can regulate homegrown marijuana through the Commerce Clause.
Despite telling members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that she would sit out any cases where she assisted the Obama Administration in her time as Solicitor General, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan didn’t recuse herself in the decision to deny an expedited hearing on ObamaCare:
Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan did not recuse herself from Monday’s decision not to fast-track the high court’s review of Virginia’s challenge to the healthcare reform law, prompting speculation that President Obama’s former solicitor general intends to take part in the case if and when it reaches her level.
“If Kagan didn’t recuse herself from this decision, it would hint that she won’t recuse herself from any ObamaCare deliberations despite … the possibility that she gave the administration legal advice on crafting and defending the law,” the conservative website Hot Air opined.
“That’s not exactly a surprise either; only Kagan can force herself into a recusal, and the chance to weigh in on one of the most critical Supreme Court decisions in decades is going to outweigh any qualms over conflicts of interest.”
Many conservatives, including Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), have said Kagan should sit out the healthcare challenge. But there was no indication Monday that she had abstained from the justices’ discussion of whether to skip the Court of Appeals process in Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s suit over the reform law’s requirement that most people buy insurance. (The court only makes explicit announcements about recusal when a particular justice has decided to abstain from a case).
Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the nomination of Elena Kagan to the floor by a vote of 13 to 6:
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to become the nation’s fourth female Supreme Court justice, setting up a final confirmation vote by the Senate.
The committee vote broke down mostly along partisan lines, with one Republican joining the panel’s Democrats in sending the nomination to the full Senate on a 13-6 vote.
Democrats repeatedly characterized Kagan as a strong legal thinker who would be a fair judge, while Republicans slammed her as an inexperienced activist who would be unable to divorce her legal judgments from her political opinions.
Members on both sides expressed frustration with a confirmation hearing process many observers say increasingly yields few clear answers about a nominee’s judicial philosophy.
In case you’re wondering the Republicans that voted for Kagan, who has a questionable record on basic civil liberties like free speech and self-defense, it was Lindsey Graham (R-SC). That comes as a shocker, I’m sure.
With Graham’s defection, Kagan’s confirmation is a lock.
At least according to Mike Allen’s Playbook:
- Look for President Obama to name his Supreme Court pick Monday, and look for it to be Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a former Harvard Law dean. The pick isn’t official, but top White House aides will be shocked if it’s otherwise. Kagan’s relative youth (50) is a huge asset for the lifetime post. And President Obama considers her to be a persuasive, fearless advocate who would serve as an intellectual counterweight to Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia, and could lure swing Justice Kennedy into some coalitions The West Wing may leak the pick to AP’s Ben Feller on the later side Sunday, then confirm it for others for morning editions. For now, aides say POTUS hasn’t decided, to their knowledge
If that happens, it will be interesting to see what the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have to say about these comments that Kagan made about 15 years ago:
In 1995, after spending time as a staff lawyer on the judiciary committee during the nomination of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kagan made clear her frustrations: “When the Senate ceases to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues, the confirmation process takes on an air of vacuity and farce.”
Kagan’s opinion appears in a 1995 book review of “The Confirmation Mess” by Stephen Carter. In her lively and at times humorous piece, Kagan takes issue with Carter’s 1995 thesis that the process has broken down, in part, because Senators are too focused on getting candidates to reveal their views on important legal issues.
With the exception of Lindsey Graham’s “yes” votes, the vote to send Sonia Sotomayor’s SCOTUS nomination to the full Senate was strictly partisan:
The Senate Judiciary Committee this morning endorsed Sonia Sotomayor to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court on a largely partisan vote that sends her historic nomination to the full Senate for a final decision on her confirmation.
The 13 to 6 vote came nearly two weeks after the committee’s members grilled Sotomayor for 2 ½ days, eliciting answers that betrayed little indication of how the nominee, an appellate judge for the past 11 years, would rule on the most significant issues that come before the nation’s highest court.