Date: January 13, 2006
Senator: Various - Specter\Leahy
Topic: Closing Remarks
SPECTER: There are two more items that I want to cover.
First, we'll let the panel go.
Thank you very much, Ms. Pringle, Congressman Gonzalez, Congresswoman Schultz, Mr. White, Mr. Turner and Mr. Shaw.
You've been a very enlightening panel and I know how deeply all of your views are held. That's one thing we've seen in this hearing.
Nobody's casual about Judge Alito. Everybody's very decisive. Emotions run deep.
Two items I want to cover.
One in the colloquy with my distinguished ranking member, that is the future schedule on Judge Alito. And then I intend to announce my own decision on my vote now that the hearings are over.
The issue of scheduling has been extraordinarily difficult, as Senator Leahy and I have wrestled with that problem.
Preliminarily, let me say that it has been a pleasure to work with Senator Leahy and I think our collegiality has been demonstrated in many ways, mostly by all of the pictures taken where we're huddled together so that our voices don't carry too far beyond, and also with a sense of humor.
In the bad old days when I had no hair, the only way that Senator Leahy and I could be told apart was by the color of our ties.
LEAHY: You're still wearing the red tie?
SPECTER: And I'm glad to have some hair.
But the scheduling issue has been an important one and it was a difficult issue as to when we would schedule these hearings.
The president, as is well known, wanted the matter decided before Christmas and it seemed to me that was not realistic. We had to do it right and not do it fast.
And then the issue came up, OK, not before Christmas, then when?
And I wanted to start the hearings the day after New Year's. I wanted to start them on January 2nd.
And the Democrats have a right under our committee practices to delay for a week and it seemed to me that, that week could be given from the second to the ninth and that would be the week's delay.
And Senator Leahy and I are under -- we have a lot to consider. We have committee members who have views and we have a caucus, caucuses which have views.
But at any rate, we came to terms on what I thought was done, and Senator Leahy and I then went up to the radio-TV gallery and I want to read a bit of the discussion which we had there.
And I don't do this in a legalistic sense to mind Senator Leahy; I do it to set the parameters as to where we've been and the views that my committee members have and which I have.
And this is the transcript.
Quote, "But at any rate, Senator Leahy and I have worked through it and said it could be delayed a week in any event by any senator who wants to hold it over for a week; that we would put that week back at the start on the ninth with the good-faith understanding that our intent would be to go to the executive committee meeting on the 17th, the day after Martin Luther King holiday. So the schedule will be that we'll start hearings at noon on the ninth, we'll have them on Tuesday the 10th, Wednesday the 11th, Thursday the 12th, Friday the 13th, and Saturday the 14th, if necessary. Then we will go to the exec on the 17th.
"And here we can't get everybody bound in writing to waive in advance, but Pat Leahy and Arlen Specter have had no problems, nor have we, anybody on the committee, of not fulfilling what we have said we'd do as a matter of good-faith intent, which would put the executive session on the 17th. We finished that with Chief Justice Roberts in the morning and then we would go to the 18th, 19th, and 20th for floor debate with a vote on the 20th."
There's more dialogue and Senator Leahy then put in a limitation. Quote, "Obviously, this leaves room if something extraordinary comes up and frankly, neither Senator Specter nor I anticipate or expect," closed quote. And I didn't object to that.
It seemed to me that, that was a reasonable condition which might change what I had said earlier.
It is my intention to adhere to that schedule and to set the executive committee meeting for next Tuesday the 17th in Dirksen 226, our regular hearing room, at 11:00 a.m.
SPECTER: Senator Leahy?
LEAHY: Well, of course, we did this on November 3rd and the discussion was had by the -- you're absolutely right -- by Senator Frist, who was responding to the -- I won't characterize it as pressure but the direction he had received from the White House to vote for it prior to Christmas.
You may recall that Senator Frist at first said that the Senate would adjourn for the year in the first week in October and then that under every conceivable circumstance, the week before Thanksgiving. Instead there was the joyful singing of Christmas carols in the halls as we were finishing up just a few days before Christmas.
Had we followed what the White House had told Senator Frist they wanted and gone before Christmas, of course we couldn't have even had the hearing.
We were having votes every 10 minutes. It would have been chaotic. It would not have been the dignified and thorough kind of hearing we had here. On January 2nd, of course, was a holiday. We could have come back that day and had the hearings.
I think it -- as I stated at the press conference, it would have meant destroying any of the staff's attempt to have any time over the holidays with their families. They had lost much of the -- any of the family time during the normal school vacations in August because we had to prepare for the Roberts hearings.
This was, of course, the third nominee of the president's for this seat, and I would have much preferred, as you know, for a personal reason to have had it the first week in January because of long, long, long-standing personal plans for this week which I canceled because otherwise it would have meant canceling everybody's time with their families at Christmas.
I have been told that a number of our members are going to be home for Martin Luther King events this weekend, will not be back on time on Tuesday, and so they will exercise their rights.
And as you and I discussed privately prior to that press conference, of course any senator could exercise their right to put it over, a right that you and I -- both of us have served as chairman -- something you and I have always protected.
I understand from something the majority leader said that, again, even though the court doesn't come back in until the latter part of February, that the White House has told them they want the hearings to -- or wants the debate to begin before the president's State of the Union.
Even if we had -- I don't have a calendar before me, but even if we had -- if we put this over from next Tuesday to the following Tuesday, there's no reason why then it couldn't be on the floor on Wednesday, which is still one, two, three, four, five, six days prior to the State of the Union -- just in case you're wondering.
SPECTER: Well, this is about the first time Senator Leahy and I haven't agreed on something, but there has to be a first time for everything.
But I propose...
LEAHY: I agree you're a superb chairman. You agree on that, I hope.
SPECTER: And the reciprocity of respect I think is pretty evident the way we've conducted these hearings.
And I appreciate what Senator Leahy has said about the full and fair. And he used the word "dignified," I think they are dignified. There's a Latin maxim, "The exception proves the rule."
There might have been four minutes in the hearing when it wasn't dignified, but we worked through that as well.
About the only thing the respective parties have been able to agree to on this whole proceeding is that Senator Leahy and I have functioned collegially and have produced a full and fair and dignified hearing.
SPECTER: And as far as I'm concerned, we're going to proceed on the 17th at 11:00. And if the right of the...
LEAHY: Right of any senator.
SPECTER: Well, if they're held over, they're held over. I had thought we had -- and I don't fault Senator Leahy -- I thought that the Democratic caucus knew what we were doing. And they certainly knew about it after we said it.
But we'll work through this problem like many, many others. This is not a gigantic problem.
LEAHY: I think one of the problems is that whether this affected it or not, I think the fact that the time we were going to wrap up the session, the time which is determined by the leadership, by the majority leadership, kept changing. It kept changing almost day by day by day by day. And it probably has put all the pressure on everything else.
I would hope that we can work this out. Maybe you and I -- we have each other on speed dial at home. And Senator Specter has heard more descriptions about my farm house than -- let's get some of these hearings out of the way and you and I can sit up there and have dinner and have a good time.
But we'll talk about this over the weekend.