Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Leahy to Chair Senate Judicial Committee

It always feels good to come back to Georgetown Law Center. I am grateful to this law school for nurturing my appreciation for the rule of law in a just and free society. I thank Dean Aleinikoff for his invitation and we wish his duties allowed him to be with us today, and I also appreciate the sponsorship of the Constitution Project, which is making a real difference in focusing public discourse on first principles and away from the partisan divisiveness of the last few years. I will not speak long because I know that the students among you, including a number of talented folks who have helped me — Chanda Betourney, Phil Toomajian, and Emily Dakin, to name a few — are in the throes of finals for your classes this semester. With the Congress finally adjourning early Saturday morning, I want to take this opportunity to look forward to the next Congress and some of the priorities that will help restore balance to our system and better protect the rights and serve the interests of the American people.
I came to the Senate during the ebb tide of Watergate and Vietnam. In my 32 years since then in the Senate, I have never seen a Congress so willfully derelict in its duties as during this Administration. This has been an unfortunate chapter in Congress’s history, a time when our Constitution was under assault, when our legal and human rights were weakened, when our privacy and other freedoms were eroded. This election was an intervention. The American people rose up to take away Congress’s rubber stamp, and to demand a new direction with more accountability.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will do its part. We will take an active role – and, I hope, a bipartisan role -- in charting a new course. I have enjoyed working closely with our current Chairman, Arlen Specter, who has accomplished much and has tried to accomplish even more, under difficult circumstances and with incredible stamina. We have a strong bond of friendship to build upon.
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