Sen. Graham Questions Witnesses at Judge Sotomayor's Confirmation Hearings

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, July 16, 2009 5:13 PM

LEAHY: Thank you. Senator Sessions indicated that Senator Graham will be next to inquire.

GRAHAM: I'd like to thank my colleagues for the courtesy here. I've got to run back and do some things. This has been a very good panel by the way. I think we're sort of grappling with issues right here in the Senate the country is grappling with, and I'll try to put it in perspective the best I can.

Now Ms. Chavez, identity politics I think I know what you're talking about. I asked the Judge about it. It's a -- a practice of politics I don't agree with and I think overall is not the right way to go. But having said that I've tried to look at the Judge in totality.

The well-qualified and ready from the ABA when it was given to Judge Alito and Roberts, we all embraced it, and I used it a couple of times to say that if you thought this person had a rigid view of life or the law it'd been very hard for the ABA to give them a well- qualified rating. Does that impress you at all that the ABA had a different view in terms of how she might use identity politics on the bench?

CHAVEZ: Well I'm not sure they dealt with that question. I think they did deal with her record as a judge and the decisions that she has made as a judge. The ABA and I often disagree on...

GRAHAM: Ma'am, I totally understand.


CHAVEZ: (inaudible).

GRAHAM: I totally understand, but I guess the point I'm making, I don't want to sit here and try to have it both ways. You know say the ABA's a great thing one day and means nothing the next.

Have you ever known a Republican political leader to actively try to seek putting a minority in a position of responsibility to help the party?

CHAVEZ: I think that the idea of giving due deference to making sure that people are representative in -- in diverse ways is a standard way of operating -- in political circles. I don't...

(UNKNOWN): Well, the only reason I mentioned that is the statement you made, the way we pick our judges should be based on merit, the way we pick our firefighters. I totally agree with that. I mean, it's -- but politics is politics in the sense that I know that Republicans sit down and think, OK, we've got some power now. Let's make sure that we let the whole country know the Republican Party is just not a party of short white guys.

(UNKNOWN): I think that's different, though, Senator, then, as she suggested in her speech that there are to be some sort of proportion...

(UNKNOWN): Yes, that's right. You can go -- that's right. I -- I totally agree.

(UNKNOWN): I -- I -- and I think that's farther. And I also think it matters that we're not just doing that because we want to see diverse opinions. But it seems to me that what she was saying in her speech was that we do that because blacks, Latinos and women are different, think differently, and will behave differently. I mean, she said that explicitly, that it...

(UNKNOWN): Yes, I...

(UNKNOWN): ... maybe as a result of physiological differences. I think any white man that said such a thing about minorities or women would be laughed out of this room.

(UNKNOWN): Well, since I'm the white guy that said that, I agree with you.


But the point is that I'm trying to get the country in a spot where you're not judged by one thing, that we just can't look at her and say that's it. You know, when I looked at her, I'd see speeches that bugged the hell out of me, as I said before, but I'll also see something that very much impresses me.

And the ADA apparently sees something, and Louis Freeh sees something, and Ken Starr sees something. And, you know, what I want to tell the country is that Republicans very much do sit down and think about political picks and appointments in a political sense to try to show that we're a party that looks at all Americans and intends to give an opportunity. And that's just life, and that's not a bad thing.

Now, Mr. Ricci, I would want you to come to my house, if it was on fire.


And I appreciate how difficult this must have been for you to bust your ass and to study so hard and -- and to have it all stripped at the end. I just want you to know if the country that we're probably one generation removed to where no matter how hard you study, based on your last name or the color of your skin, you'd have no -- no shot. And we're trying to find some balance.

And in your case I think you were poorly treated, and you did not get the day in court you deserve, but all turned out well. It was a five-four decision, and maybe we can learn something through your experience. But please don't lose sight of the fact not so very long ago, the test was rigged a different way.

Mr. Vargas, you're one generation removed from where your last name would have been it. Do you understand that?

VARGAS: Yes, sir.

(UNKNOWN): What did you go through personally to stand with Mr. Ricci? What came your way? Does anybody criticize you?

VARGAS: I received lots of criticism.

(UNKNOWN): Well, tell me the kind of criticisms you had.

VARGAS: But I have -- I have a thick skin. I believe that I'm a person with thick skin.

(UNKNOWN): Well, did people call you an Uncle Tom?

VARGAS: Yes, sir.

(UNKNOWN): People thought you were disloyal to the Hispanic community? VARGAS: Absolutely, yes.

(UNKNOWN): Well, quite frankly, my friend, I think you've done a lot for American-Hispanic community. My hat's off to you.

VARGAS: Thank you, Senator.

(UNKNOWN): Finally, Mayor, having to govern a city as diverse as New York must be very, very difficult. It is also a pleasure?

BLOOMBERG: It is a pleasure, and we -- I said before you came in that some of Judge Sotomayor's views I don't happen to agree with some of her decisions. I think on Ricci, for example, I disagreed with what the city of New Haven did.

BLOOMBERG: In New York City, you should know that our city is a defendant in a case, a class action suit in the Justice Department where the challenge is to entry-level tests for our fire department, one given in 1999 before I became mayor, and one afterwards in 2002. And we're defending it on the grounds -- the suit alleges that the written portions of the test were not germane to the job and had a disparate impact.

I've chosen to fight this. I think that in fact the tests were job-related and were consistent with business necessity. This is a case that's going to go to trial sometime later this year. What we've tried to do is to approach it from a different point of view, aggressive recruiting to try to get more minorities to apply to be firefighters. And we have revised our test. We've had a substantial increase in the number of minorities taking the test, passing the test, and joining our fire department.

I really do believe that that's a better way to solve the diversity problem, which does affect an awful lot of fire departments around this country, rather than throwing out tests and thereby penalizing those who pass the test.

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