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Thune: Providing COVID Relief and Confirming Qualified Judges Among Senate Republicans’ Top Priorities

“I believe what we should be doing is sitting down and working on a reasonable bill, a targeted bill, a fiscally responsible bill, and Republicans have been more than willing to do that, and more than willing to compromise.”

November 18, 2020

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the need for Congress to pass additional COVID relief legislation and Senate Republicans’ effort to work with Senate Democrats to find common ground on targeted, fiscally responsible legislation to help the American people. He also expressed his disappointment in Senate Democrats as they continue to insist on including their liberal wish list agenda as part of a COVID relief bill. Thune also discussed judicial nominations and the Senate’s responsibility to confirm qualified judges who interpret the law as written instead of legislating from the bench. Thune noted that over the last four years, the Senate has confirmed nearly 230 judges to federal courts, an accomplishment he attributes to the majority leader’s commitment to leaving no vacancy behind.

Excerpts of Thune’s remarks are below:

“I believe what we should be doing is sitting down and working on a reasonable bill, a targeted bill, a fiscally responsible bill, and Republicans have been more than willing to do that, and more than willing to compromise.

“But the Democrats, both in the House and the Senate, continue to insist upon a multi-trillion dollar bill, which consists, again, of a bunch of liberal wish list items, taxpayer bailouts for blue states, tax cuts for millionaires across this country, and putting money into diversity studies on cannabis, instead of the targeted things, the things that are really going to be necessary to help [the] American people and our economy recover from the coronavirus.”


“Mr. President, a couple of weeks ago, we confirmed one of the most qualified Supreme Court judges in living memory to the bench.

“This week we will confirm five district court judges, bringing the total number of judges we’ve confirmed over the last four years to nearly 230. 

“Mr. President, confirming good judges is one of our most important responsibilities as senators.

“And it’s a responsibility I take very seriously.

“In fact, one of the main reasons I was first elected to the Senate was to make sure outstanding judicial nominees were confirmed to the federal bench.

“It’s hard to imagine now, but confirming judges used to be a pretty bipartisan affair.

“For the better part of two centuries, both parties generally got the majority of their judicial nominees confirmed to the bench.

“But all of that changed back in the early 2000s.

“After George W. Bush’s election, Democrats decided that the president’s judicial nominees might not deliver the results Democrats wanted.

“And so they decided to adopt a new strategy – blocking judicial nominees on a regular basis.

“I was one of the many Americans upset by the blockade of talented, well-qualified nominees.

“And it was one of the main reasons I ran for the Senate.

“I promised South Dakotans that if they elected me, I would help put outstanding judges on the bench.

“And I’m proud to have delivered on that promise.

“The list of outstanding judicial nominees we’ve confirmed over the past four years is long.

“We’ve confirmed brilliant, accomplished men and women with superb qualifications.

“But most importantly, we’ve confirmed men and women who understand the proper role of a judge.

“Who know that the job of a judge is to interpret the law, not make the law.

“To call balls and strikes, not rewrite the rules of the game.

“And Mr. President, it’s here that Republican judicial philosophy diverges from the judicial philosophy of a lot of Democrats.

“Republicans believe that the job of a judge is to look at the law and the Constitution, and then rule based on how those things apply to the facts in a particular case. 

“Judges, we believe, should leave their politics and their personal opinions at the courtroom door, and base their opinions solely on what the law and the Constitution say.

“Democrats think differently.

“For Democrats, what matters is not how judges reach their conclusion – not whether or not they apply the law – but what outcomes they deliver.

“If a judge can deliver the right outcome by following the plain meaning of the law, then great.

“But if she can’t, then Democrats want a judge to reach beyond the plain meaning of the statute to deliver what Democrats see as an appropriate result.

“Then presidential candidate Barack Obama said in 2007, and I quote, “[W]hat you've got to look at is, what is in the justice's heart? What's their broader vision of what America should be?”

“That’s a very dangerous standard.

“It’s not the job of a judge to impose his or her “broader vision of what America should be.”

“It’s the job of a judge to determine what the law says, and then apply the law to the particular case before him.

“President Obama famously said he wanted judges with empathy.

“That’s all very well, until you’re the party in a case and you have the law on your side, but the judge empathizes with the opposing party. 

“What happens then?

“Mr. President, the only way to preserve the rule of law in this country is to confirm judges who understand that their allegiance must be to the law – not to their personal feelings, their political beliefs, or their “broader vision of what America should be.”

“Otherwise you’ve replaced the rule of law with the rule of a bunch of individual judges.

“So I am very thankful that we have confirmed so many judges who understand that the job of a judge is to apply the law, not make it – and who won’t try to usurp the job of Congress by legislating from the federal bench.

“I want to thank the majority leader for making judicial confirmations such a priority.

“And I look forward to confirming more outstanding judicial nominees this week.”