Senate to hold procedural vote on Grasz nomination tonight

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate floor prior to a procedural vote to advance the nomination of Steve Grasz to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Sasse's remarks, as prepared for delivery, are found below:

Mr. President, I rise today in support of the nomination of Steve Grasz to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

One of the most important things that the Senate has done this year and will continue to do between now and Christmas – and, in fact, into 2018 – is consider nominees to the federal courts. 

When I talk with Nebraskans, I constantly hear from men and women who tell me that the number one issue they care about in Presidential elections is the judiciary – Nebraskans want judges who understand that they’re not lawmakers. Nebraskans want judges who understand that a lifetime appointment isn’t designed to do politics. Nebraskans want judges who understand that the courts are to uphold the laws fairly and impartially.

My colleagues and I on the Senate Judiciary Committee agree with the Nebraskans in townhalls, and coffee shops, and Rotary Clubs. In the committee we’ve worked to advance a record number of judges who know exactly that. We’re looking for thoughtful men and women of integrity. 

That’s why it’s a pleasure and an honor to come to the floor today in support of Steve. 

Steve is a Nebraskan through and through. He’s a fifth-generation Nebraskan who grew up on the family farm – walking beans, raising sheep and pigs, branding cattle. When he was a young man, life in the Nebraska Panhandle taught him hard work. He moved East to Lincoln where the University of Nebraska taught him the law.

Steve graduated at the top of his class and put his law degree to work serving his fellow Nebraskans. He served as the Chief Deputy Attorney General of our state for nearly a dozen years.

Steve’s job was to represent the people of Nebraska in court. That means he was bound by the law and his professional duty to defend our laws, including our state’s ban on the gruesome procedure known as partial-birth abortion.

In the Nebraska AG’s office role, he litigated multiple cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Nebraska Supreme Court, and the Eighth Circuit, to which he has been nominated. Every time he represented us in court, Steve did so with integrity, humility, and decency. That’s just what Nebraskans do.

Steve bleeds Husker red but he’s ready to put on a judge’s black robe. He knows that judges in America don’t wear red or blue partisan jerseys. He knows that policy preferences—whether his or anyone else’s—have no role in how a judge applies the law. He knows that in his courtroom only two things matter: the facts and the law.

Anybody who wants to ensure that Steve will approach his job as a judge without partisan or ideological bias should listen to the words of the hundreds of Nebraskans who have spoken out in support of Steve’s nomination. Democrat Ben Nelson, Nebraska’s U.S. Senator from 2001 through 2013 and its Governor, 1991 through 1998, offered this testament to Steve’s fitness for office:

"I first got to know Steve when I served as Nebraska’s Governor and he served as our state’s Chief Deputy Attorney General. . . . With me as a Democrat and him as a Republican, we sometimes found ourselves disagreeing on policy; nevertheless, I quickly learned that Steve was the kind of consummate professional who is capable of putting whatever personal views he may have aside when appropriate in his capacity as a public servant. . . . If Steve is confirmed, I fully expect him to follow the law and the facts in each case because I know his loyalty is first to the rule of law, rather than to any personal views he holds on matters of policy. He possesses first-rate legal skills and a respectful, even-keeled temperament, key ingredients in the making of a good judge. As a Nebraskan, I hope our state has the opportunity to benefit yet again from Steve’s public service in this new role."

Deborah Gilg, President Obama’s choice for U.S. Attorney for the District of Nebraska, who served from 2009 to 2016, also spoke glowingly of Steve:

"Steve has always enjoyed a reputation for honesty, impeccable integrity and dedication to the rule of law. He possesses an even temperament well-suited for the bench and always acts with respect to all that interact with him. . . . Without a doubt, he would be a tremendous asset to the bench as he demonstrates excellence in all that he does."

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that both of these letters be entered into the record in their entirety.

Steve’s reputation for honesty and integrity earned him this bipartisan support in Nebraska. I’m a bit sad that here in Washington things took a more partisan tone in the committee. Happily, we have a chance to do the right thing and return to a bipartisan tone here in the Senate tonight. 

I hope that my colleagues will listen to the broad array of Nebraskans of all ideological and partisan views and support his nomination.