"Frankly, I think everybody in this body ought to be celebrating the nomination of a guy who's out there affirming three separate but equal branches and the independence of the judiciary."

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate floor this afternoon on Judge Neil Gorsuch, criticisms of the judicial branch, and the need for all three branches government to uphold and defend the Constitution's system of checks and balances.
Thank you, Mr. President. 

I thank my colleagues as well for yielding to me, a little bit of out of line here. I think one thing we don't do nearly a good enough job around here (not just in Washington, D.C., but in schools across America) is reflect on the basic civics that we've inherited and the constitutional structure of checks and balances—and why we have a limited government.

And I think judge Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court, and frankly more narrowly just the media cycles of today, give us a special opportunity to pause and to do a little bit of civics again.

Judge Gorsuch is tough, smart, fair-minded, independent, and he's a guy who's taken an oath of office to a Constitution of limits. That's exactly the sort of thing that we should be affirming and celebrating around here.

I think that everyone on both sides of the aisle in this body should be celebrating Judge Gorsuch and what he believes about a constitutional system that has limits.

And defending your own branch—the Founders envisioned a world where these three branches would be jealous of their own prerogatives—defending your own branch is not to attack another branch.

And so, as I've read the media reports this morning of who said what to whom and who shouted at whom and who argued about what—what if we just paused and reflected again on what it means to believe in a Constitution that has three separate but equal branches that are supposed to check and balance one another? 

So I happen to have on my desk (I went and looked after seeing some media reports this morning) I happen to have the breast pocket card I had in my suit two days ago when I met with the Judge and I asked him about the comments coming from the White House criticizing a "so-called judge."

So I just would like to share with this body some of the comments that the Judge made to me when I asked him what he thought about the criticism of the "so-called judge," because we don't have "so-called judges." We don't have "so-called presidents," and we don't have "so-called senators." We have people from three branches that have taken an oath to a Constitution. 

So here's some of what the Judge told me when I asked him what he thought about those comments. He got a little bit emotional and he said that any attack, or any criticism, of his "brothers and sisters of the robe," is an attack or a criticism on everybody wearing the robe as a judge. I think that's something that this body should be pretty excited to hear someone say who's been nominated to the high Court.

He said it is incredibly disheartening to hear things that might undermine the credibility and the independence of the judiciary. He said it is completely legitimate for all of us to vigorously debate individual opinions. We should argue about opinions. We can argue as citizens about cases. We can argue in this legislative branch or the executive branch, can argue about the merits of particular opinions and yet we want to affirm the three branches. So he said it's disheartening for us to do anything that might undermine that. He then pointed me back to his comments at the White House the night he was nominated.

So I went back and looked at his comments and the very first people he thanked when he had been nominated to the Court was, he said, I want to celebrate the judges of America who are the "Unsung heroes of the rule of law" in this country. He called the judges unsung hero heroes of the rule of law.

He said an independent judiciary has "got to be tough. It is not my job as a nominee to the Court and it's not the job of any other judge to comment on particular cases and it's not the job of judges to play politics or to hold press conferences talking about politics." But we can recognize that historically the other two branches are often wary of times when the Court asserts its prerogatives.

So he said, for instance, Thomas Jefferson didn't like Marbury vs. Madison and it was completely legitimate for President Jefferson to criticize and argue about the merits of the Marbury vs.Madison decision, even as we do the important civics work of reaffirming the three separate but equal branches.

Frankly, I think everybody in this body ought to be celebrating the nomination of a guy who's out there affirming three separate but equal branches and the independence of the judiciary. We should want to see the executive branch checked and, frankly, if we really love America—as I know people in this body do—we should want to see our own powers limited because it is fundamentally American to be skeptical of the consolidation of power.

Our Founders divided power and checked and balanced each of the other branches because they were skeptical of what people in power might ultimately do. Sadly, there are some on the other side of the aisle today, and I think many are going to give him a fair shake, but there are some on the other side of the aisle who decided they want to reflexively attack Judge Gorsuch.

It's like Keystone Kops running around trying to figure out which story you want to label it with: I hear some people saying: "Gorsuch because he's been nominated by this President and a bunch of people don't like this President, therefore, he can't be independent. He will be a puppet." Others saying "Gorsuch has rented a plane and taking out a sky-writing script and he's out there saying 'I hate Donald Trump, I hate Donald Trump.'" That's nonsense. Neither of those things are true. He is not a puppet and he's not out there attacking the President of the United States. He's meeting with us, trying to explain his view of an independent judiciary. He's trying to affirm the same constitutional oath of office that all of us in this body have taken. 

I think it's high time in this body that we get beyond reflexive partisanship of Republicans are for Republicans if they have the same label and Democrats are against Republicans and vice versa. Our job fundamentally in this body is an oath that we've taken to three separate but equal branches.

And I think what we're hearing in these private meetings with Judge Gorsuch and what I'm sure he's going to say when he speaks for himself publicly before the Judiciary Committee, what we're hearing from him is a guy who believes in three separate but equal branches and is skeptical of the consolidation of power because he understands why America has limited government. 

That's the kind of person we should be celebrating having been nominated to the Court.

Thank you, Mr. President.