Luis V. Gutiérrez
Editor’s Note: The following are remarks by Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) delivered on Sept. 26th in a speech on the House floor regarding the confirmation process for Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Mr. Speaker, I am a Member of the Judiciary Committee in this body and unfortunately, the framers of the Constitution did not give my Committee or this Chamber a role in vetting and confirming the President’s nominees to the Supreme Court.
But in the House we pride ourselves on being the People’s House because we are in constant contact with our constituents and we are accountable to them every two years.
So while I do not have a vote in the process, I do have a voice. And as an elected representative I feel a sacred responsibility to raise my voice.
First of all, I don’t care when allegations of sexual assault come forward. I don’t care about whatever schedule Senator Chuck Grassley thinks is more important. I don’t care about the impending fall term of the Court, the coming midterms, or the timing of Robert Mueller’s next indictments in his investigation of the Trump White House and campaign.
In the case of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, we should listen to the women.
We should always listen to the women, but in this case, multiple women have come forward to risk their lives and reputations because they believe the truth about Judge Kavanaugh must come out before he is confirmed or rejected by the Senate.
Women in this country should know that if you come forward to make credible allegations against anyone – anyone – you will be respected and you will be heard.
You want to know why so few sexual assaults are reported in this country? Well, it is unfolding on the national stage.
Why didn’t she report it? Why didn’t she do something? Why didn’t she say something?
It is always she, she, she, when we know that sexual assault is not her fault and fear of coming forward is not her fault either.
They didn’t believe Bill Cosby’s accusers until they did. Or Harvey Weinstein’s or Speaker Hastert’s or a hundred other people I could name. Until we did believe them.
When the stakes are this high, we shouldn’t be imposing deadlines or ultimatums or requiring victims to conform to our timetables, as Republican Senators have done.
And by high stakes, I don’t just mean the lifetime appointment of a judge, but this is an important moment for young men and young women in this country.
We should be leading by example and allowing victims to come forward, be respected and be heard.
Do I want my grandson to learn a lesson that sexual assault while he is in high school could follow him for the rest of his life? You’re damn right I do.
Do I want young men to learn that behavior that hurts other people – no matter how drunk or high you are – is unacceptable? You’re damn right I do.
Do I want young women to not be afraid to come forward, no matter when they are ready to? You’re damn right I do.
Look, I’m not saying you need to believe Judge Kavanaugh’s accusers, but as a Congress and as a country, we need to listen to the women.
Now, I’ll admit that I would not vote for Judge Kavanaugh whether or not the current allegations are true or Republicans steamroll the victims to fast-track his appointment.
I believe in a woman’s right to control her own reproductive system regardless of what men think, so yeah, you can bet I’d vote against Kavanaugh.
I believe freedom of religion should extend to all including those of the Muslim faith who should be free to worship and move around just like everyone else, so, yeah, you can bet I’d vote against Kavanaugh.
I believe people should marry who they want to marry; who they love.
I oppose a Judge who thinks a sitting President is above the law right now when we as a nation need an independent judiciary to hold politicians – even the President – accountable, which is another reason why I would be a vote against Kavanaugh.
But what is important right now is not how I feel about Judge Kavanaugh. What is important is that we lead by example.
We need to be clear that the days of “boys will be boys” or “it was just locker room talk” are over. And the Senate should take as much time as is needed to take that very, very seriously.
They should take it seriously, for our daughters, for our sons, for you and for me too.
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is the Dean of the Illinois delegation and a thirteen-term Member of Congress from Chicago. He is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
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