Sullivan Announces Support for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court Confirmation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) today spoke on the Senate floor to announce his support for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to serve as the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Senator Sullivan met with Judge Barrett on September 30.
Mr. President, I was in Alaska when Judge Amy Coney Barrett was before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but since then, I was able to catch up on those hearings, and I want to commend my colleagues, particularly Senator Graham, for conducting those hearings in a way that befitted such an occasion—respect, good questioning—and I think that the American people, certainly my constituents, learned a lot and were very impressed with Judge Barrett.
Mr. President, as you know, the advise and consent responsibility of the Senate is one of the most important responsibilities that we have in the Constitution. The process that I will have gone through, and go through with every single judge, is to evaluate Judge Barrett's qualifications on her record, the hearings, and, of course, discussions I've had with her. And this has been an extensive evaluation. I've read hundreds of pages of the decisions that she's authored. I've listened to and read the views of Alaskans, both for and against her nomination, and in my meeting with Judge Barrett, we discussed in great depth her viewpoint on a variety of national and Alaska-focused legal issues.
She clearly understands the separation of powers and federalism, holds a healthy skepticism regarding the expansive power of federal agencies, and is a strong protector and proponent of the Second Amendment—all issues that my constituents care deeply about.
Why are these issues so important to Alaska and central to us realizing our potential? Mr. President, let me give you a brief but recent example of an issue that recently made its way through the Ninth Circuit—which often is the bane of our existence in Alaska—to the Supreme Court, not once, but twice, and was unanimously agreed to by the Supreme Court. In a case that some in the media will be familiar with, Sturgeon vs. Frost—a moose hunter, a hover craft, and the wild Interior of Alaska made for some great headlines. But the issue being litigated in that case was one of control, one of freedom—control of our lands, our waters, our fish and game.
The federal government, in essence, told John Sturgeon he couldn't use his hovercraft on federal waters to go hunting. “Yes, I can,” said Sturgeon. He knew the law. Then there was litigation. It is one that comes up time and again in Alaska. The issue of federal overreach, agency creep. In Alaska, we have a front row [seat] to this problem. We've seen it happen to us consistently by the courts, particularly, as I mentioned, the judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. When they interpret statutes involving my state—and there are many federal statutes that only relate to Alaska—in a way that fits with their ideas and policy notions about the way the federal lands in Alaska should be managed. In essence, they typically think that less control by the people and more control by the government is what is needed. But, Mr. President, that often is not what Congress wrote and what Congress intended. It's the absolute opposite of judicial humility, failing to read the statutes as we, in this body, wrote them. It's failing to exhibit the kind of textualism that Judge Barrett ascribes to and [that] was so on display during her hearings.
So why is this so important? Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her opinion for the majority in Sturgeon vs. Frost, when the Supreme Court overturned the Ninth Circuit twice in three years, that the federal laws that govern land management in Alaska are often “different from the laws governing land management in any other part of the country.” These laws are often carefully crafted by this body, in the House, and they are essential for Alaskans, both culturally and economically. And when judges misinterpret these laws, as they often do, and this is what I talked to Judge Barrett about, they often directly impact the lives of my constituents, usually in a negative way. Just ask John Sturgeon and countless other Alaskans over the decades who have seen their rights to legally enjoy our lands—and it is our lands—that they call home, whittled away, decision by decision, by federal agencies.
Over the years, various federal agencies have acted as if federal law governing Alaska doesn't exist. Commercial-use permits weren’t being issued. People couldn't partake in their traditional activities. They couldn't harvest their traditional foods. Alaskans couldn't make a living on the land. I don't know how Judge Barrett will vote on these specific issues, but I trust her temperament, on great display during the hearings, her stated skepticism about federal overreach, and her strong belief that the Second Amendment “confers an individual right intimately connected with the natural right of self-defense.”
I trust what others have said about her on both sides of the aisle: “brilliant,” “humble,” “a woman of unassailable integrity” and, “a role model for generations to come.” All of this was on display during her hearing and in my meeting with her. And I trust that all of this will come into play when these kinds of cases, the Alaska-specific cases, make their way up to the high court, which they inevitably do. I don't believe that it's an overstatement to say that the future of my constituents depends on these kinds of issues. So, Mr. President, it's for these reasons and others that I will vote to confirm Judge Barrett to the United States Supreme Court and I encourage all of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to do the same for this exceptional jurist who is very qualified for this position.
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