Skip to comments.MTP: Brownback and Feinstein debate Pickering's nomination and human cloning
Posted on 02/24/2002 8:40:02 PM PST by Jean S
MR. RUSSERT: We are back. Senators are welcome. Let me move first to the appointment, the nomination of Charles Pickering, a federal judge to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, a very important judiciary branch in our country. Senator Feinstein, youre on the Judiciary Committee. Will you vote for Charles Pickering?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D-Calif.): No, I will not vote for him. I did have the privilege of chairing his hearing, his second hearing, which was a very full hearing. I believe that theres virtually unanimous opinion on the Democratic side of the Judiciary Committee that he will not be confirmed.
In other words, he will not voted out of the Judiciary Committee.
MR. RUSSERT: So, all 10 Democrats will oppose him?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I believe so. Now, you know, obviously, that can change, and I think that this is a recommended appointment that has just been enormously polarizing. And, you know, there isnt aits very hard because, obviously, hes a sitting federal court judge. But the views of people are really enormous. Its a polarized community out there. You have every chapter106 chapters in Mississippi of the NAACP opposing him, including, his own chapter in Laurel, Mississippi. I think hes had a record of involving some of his personal views and his opinions, and, of course, when he was in public office, he took extraordinary right-wing positions on issues. This is a very sensitive circuit. It represents people of color in a major way. It used to be sort of a breakthrough circuit, in terms of securing rights for people, and its become much, much more conservative.
I think that people on our side believe that it would be a tremendous mistake to put someone as polarizing in this position now. So I believe he will not be confirmed.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Brownback.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, (R-Kan.): Well, I think he should be confirmed. And Id sure like us to start getting at least a few judges confirmed. There are over 100 judicial positions, federal district courts, circuit court judge positions that are open in the country today. Judges have been confirmed at a rate of less than 40 percent during the Clinton or first Bushterm Bush One, if you will. We need to get some judges out there and confirmed in positions, if for no other reason than for homeland security, so we can deal with judicial issues coming forward. And theyve been continually held on up. Judge Pickering...
MR. RUSSERT: But both parties did that. When President Clinton...
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thats correct. Thats correct.
MR. RUSSERT: ...from 95 to 2000, 35 percent of Clintons appointments to the court of appeals were blocked.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: And then 65 percent the next year.
SEN. BROWNBACK: If youre looking, though, at a comparable period of time, under George Bush, the president now, Bush 43rd, as it was during President Clintons first years in office, you had a far greater number of people confirmed at that period of time. And plus, the Democrats at that point in time, whichwe used to point this out greatly about the number of positions that are open, 100 federal district court and circuit court judge positions that are open. That really is untenable, and it shouldnt continue.
MR. RUSSERT: As for Judge Pickering, let me just ask one question on that that I found quite striking.
He has been reversed 26 times.
SEN. BROWNBACK: Out of about 4,009 cases.
MR. RUSSERT: But whats important here is 15 of those cases he was reversed because he did not accept well-settled principles of law. Judge Edith Brown Clement, whos also in that district, who was put on the bench, extremely conservative, but not opposed, was never reversed on issues of well-settled principles of law. Does that bother you?
SEN. BROWNBACK: Andwell, how many total cases, Tim? I mean, Ive practiced law. How many total cases? I mean, I think we have about 4,000 cases that youre talking about.
MR. RUSSERT: But well-settled principle law is...
SEN. BROWNBACK: Well...
MR. RUSSERT: ...as a lawyer, as you well know, is very, very important because...
SEN. BROWNBACK: And its also in the view of the beholder, well-settled principles of law. I mean...
MR. RUSSERT: But a denial of legal precedent is an indication that someone is not willing to accept legal precedent, which suggests, or indicates, perhaps, their personal opinions are being woven in.
SEN. BROWNBACK: Well, out of what percentage is he not willing to accept? And, plus, if I could submit to you, as a lawyer, the issues of well-settled principles of law is open to definition by lawyers, that one would say this is well-settled, others would not. You know, about 26 cases out of 4,000I would say that the man is very willing to accept well-settled principled cases of law. Plus, you might recall that we went through some of these same sort of arguments with Attorney General John Ashcroft.
People said, OK, hes going to insert his own personal opinions in these cases. He testified in committee under oath, Im not going to do that. This is what the law is. I will enforce the law even if my personal opinion is to differ on that. And I think its very clear that what you have here is an honorable man, son in the United States Congress, as well, been sitting on the federal bench for some period of timethis is a good man that people are really trying to smear in a way that is not becoming of the institution, and yet it seems to be the way that is evolving around here.
MR. RUSSERT: If the Judiciary Committee rejects Judge Pickering by a vote of 10-to-9, what happens?
SEN. BROWNBACK: I think youre going to see a lot of people taking actions to try to move that on forward some other way, to see if we can bring pressure to bear on the committee, and to try to press the committee to start getting more judicial nominations in total, moving on through the process. And we can do it.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Lott has said, Pickering will be confirmed or else. What does or else mean?
SEN. BROWNBACK: I cant speak for Trent, what hes saying on that. But the Senate is virtually evenly divided, and we really do need to be working together to be able to get things on through because weve got a lot of major legislations, passed the House, been held up in the Senate.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Feinstein, let me pick up on a point that Senator Brownback raised and that is the destruction of judicial nominees. This is what The Washington Post had to say. They said there are a lot of grounds to oppose Pickering. But ...opposing a nominee should not mean destroying him. And the attack on Judge Pickering has become an ugly affair. His critics have focused for the most part not on his qualifications, temperament, approach to judging or on the quality of his judicial work. The judges opponents, rather, have tried to paint him as a barely reconstructed segregationist. To do so, they have plucked a number of unconnected incidents from a long career...None of these incidents, when examined closely, amounts to much, but opponents string them together, gloss over their complexities and self-righteously present a caricature of an unworthy candidate.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, my reaction is this, and Ive looked rather carefully at his background, and I think you have a person who has very strong right-wing views, both politically and personally. The question always comes: Can you put those views entirely aside? This is a lifetime appointment. If you cant be assured that the individual is really going to put those views aside, what happens is two years into the term those views creep forward again. And, generally, when you say, Well, were going to follow precedent, there are enough edges around precedent that an individuals views do come into it.
Thats my finding after nearly a decade on that committee.
I think theres another thing. President Bush did not have a large mandate. There is no mandate, in my view, to skew the courts to the right. And so I think youre going to see a Judiciary Committee thats really going to be looking for mainstream judges, and those judges that they find outside of the mainstream I do not believe will have Democratic support.
MR. RUSSERT: If the Judiciary Committee votes against Pickering 10-to-9, is the nomination dead?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I believe so.
MR. RUSSERT: Theres no way to bring it to the floor?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: No. I do not believe there is, unless theres a vote to bring it to the floor. If the committee wants to keep it in the committee, the committee can do so. If there is a separate vote to bring it to the floor, then it will go to the floor.
MR. RUSSERT: Would that happen, a vote would go to the floor without recommendation or a negative recommendation?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, I cant say for sure. I dont know. We have only, you know, discussed this informally amongst ourselves, so I cant answer that.
SEN. BROWNBACK: And I would hope we wouldnt have litmus tests on judges. It used to be that, OK, Ronald Reagan was accused of a litmus test on judge. We shouldnt have a litmus test from the left or the right on judges. And I think itd be fair to say that that should be a standard for both sides.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to another...
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Let me just say one thing cause I cant let that one go. This isnt a federal district court. This is an appellate court. For most people, the appellate courts are very much like the Supreme Court. They decide the cases. There are big cases to be decided. There are points that many of us feel passionately about, one of them being Roe vs. Wade. Sam and I would disagree on Roe vs. Wade. I dont want to see Roe overturned. Im in a position where Im going to be very careful that a judge that I vote for to go to a circuit court will not do that. And I think I have every right to do so. Its not a question of a litmus test. Its a question of following established law and keeping that law intact.
SEN. BROWNBACK: I think that was defined as a litmus test under Ronald Reagan what Senator Feinstein just articulated.
MR. RUSSERT: We want to come back and talk about cloning. Were going to take a quick break.
Another complicated controversial issue, cloning, either reproductive or therapeutic, right after this.
MR. RUSSERT: Cloning with senators Brownback and Feinstein after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: Were back. Senators, I want to show you a new ad that folks against therapeutic cloning have taken to the airwaves. William Kristols the chairman of this group. Lets watch.
(Videotape, Stop Human Cloning ad):
Unidentified Man #1: Many doctors and scientists oppose cloning.
Unidentified Woman: Because the therapeutic value is very dubious.
Unidentified Man #2: And cloning an embryo creates a human life.
Unidentified Man #1: That should not be destroyed for experiments.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Feinstein, do you believe that cloning creates a human life and are therapeutic clonings, stem cells, dubious?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, the bill that I and Senator Kennedy have introduced would prohibit that. It would clearly make it illegal to inject one of these stem cells into a woman uterus. Thats where you come to the point of creating a human life. It would allow therapeutic cloning so to speak, the nuclear transplantation for therapeutic cloning.
Now, let me say this. If you had a child who had a severed spinal cord and had a chance through the vision that this kind of research offers to have that spinal cord healed, or you had a mother with Alzheimers, or you had cancer or you had diabetes, the opportunity to do therapeutic cloning, if you will, to really improve the right to live in this country is enormous. Its one of the biggest areas out there. To close it off entirely is something that I could never support. So I am hopeful our bill, which is supported by virtually 87 medical organizations, a whole host of people, will really be the bill of choice. I hope so.
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Brownback, can you support that?
SEN. BROWNBACK: I cannot support her bill. Her bill is cloning. When she talks about it being a ban on certain types of cloning, she would create the clone, but then would say, You cant allow this clone to be nurtured or to be brought on forward. And at the fundamentals of it, weve got to ask ourselves what is a young human? I mean, is it a person or is it a piece of property? The Feinstein bill would say that until you plant it in the uterus, this is a piece of property, you can research on it.
Plus, I want to cure these diseases. I want to cure juvenile diabetes, A.L.S., but this is extraordinarily dubious in its possibilities being able to do it. And if we pursue the adult stem cell area where we all agree that we can do this, that its proper, that its right and that it is really doing well in the research area, its the right thing to do. So what we should do is pass a true cloning ban, which is a bill that Senator Landrieu, a senator of Louisiana, and myself have up.
MR. RUSSERT: So it seems to be no way to reconcile the difference. Senator Brownback thinks that the stem cell is a human being.
SEN. BROWNBACK: Its not a stem cell. This is an embryo, Tim. Were not talking about stem cells.
This is a young embryo that was no different than you at that stage, or me, or Senator Feinstein.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: It can be an unfertilized embryo. I mean, thats not going to be a child.
MR. RUSSERT: But can you reconcile these differences, or do you have to make a decision?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: You have to make a decision. There isI dont know. Theres a kind of political chasm that runs right down...
MR. RUSSERT: Whats the Senate going to do?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Im very hopeful that my bill will succeed.
SEN. BROWNBACK: We have strong support from environmental groups, form womens health organizations that dont want to see this be exploitive of women. The environmental groups are very concerned about the commodification of the human species, and, Tim, truly, were talking about a grave issue for humanity.
MR. RUSSERT: Is your bill going to carry the Senate?
SEN. BROWNBACK: I dont think either bill has the votes yet, because this is such an enormous issue that people are really looking at it and spending time, and Im hopeful that were going to be able to win.
The House has passed my bill, 100-vote margin, the president wants the bill Ive put forward. They dont want to create life just to destroy it.
MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. Were going to have you back and talk about cloning a whole lot more when it comes before the Senate. Senator Sam Brownback, Dianne Feinstein...
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
SEN. BROWNBACK: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: ...thanks very much. Well be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: Thats all for today. Well be back next week. If its Sunday, its MEET THE PRESS.
As we leave this Sunday, we remember Danny Pearl of The Wall Street Journal, dead at age 38, murdered by terrorists for simply doing his job, leaving his wife, Marianne, and an unborn baby, due in May. He and his family are in our thoughts and prayers.
And as America and our values are attacked around the world, we take comfort and draw strength from moments like this, when 28-year-old bobsledder Vonetta Flowers became the first African-American to win a gold medal at a Winter Olympics.
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