Brown Floor Speech on Gorsuch Nomination

Senator: ‘I cannot support anyone who believes corporations are people’

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spoke on the Senate floor this evening ahead of expected votes in the Senate on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

“Judge Gorsuch’s record is clear – he has ruled that corporations are people. That means he chose to side with: corporations over workers, polluters over communities, Wall Street over consumer protections, and special interest money over citizens,” Brown said. 

Senator Brown’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below: 

Floor Statement of Senator Sherrod Brown – Opposition to Judge Gorsuch

April 5, 2017

The Supreme Court has enormous influence over the lives of Ohioans, and any nominee must defend the rights of all Americans to make their own healthcare decisions, collectively bargain for safe workplaces and fair pay, and to be protected from discrimination and Wall Street greed.

Unfortunately, Judge Gorsuch is not that nominee.

Judge Gorsuch’s record is clear – he has ruled that corporations are people. That means he chose to side with:

  • Corporations over workers
  • Polluters over communities
  • Wall Street over consumer protections, and
  • Special interest money over citizens.

This misguided idea that corporations are people is far outside the mainstream of what most Ohioans believe. It’s is how we get rules that allow Wall Street banks and hedge funds to wreak havoc on ordinary working families, with no consequences. 

Judge Gorsuch himself has argued against the rights of working Americans to band together to hold Wall Street and corporations accountable.

He’s ruled against children with autism and students with disabilities – students simply seeking to exercise their right to an education under the law.

In fact, his views on protecting students with disabilities are so outside the mainstream, that last month the Supreme Court unanimously rejected his reasoning. 

A boy with autism, Luke, wasn’t making progress in school. It was recommended that he be placed in a residential program – and an impartial hearing officer and two different judges agreed. 

But Judge Gorsuch disagreed – he said that as long a student with a learning disability making “merely…more than de minimis” progress in his or her education, the school district didn’t have to do anything else. In other words, if your disabled child is getting more than nothing, that’s good enough.

Luckily the current Supreme Court overturned Judge Gorsuch’s precedent that denied a real education to students like Luke.

Chief Justice Roberts noted that, “[a] student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all,”

But think about what could happen the next time. If an Ohio family has a child with a learning disability, and struggles with the school system, they won’t find sympathy from Judge Gorsuch. In fact, forget sympathy – they can’t count on him to protect their child under the law.

Or take a look at the case of Alphonse Maddin, a truck driver from Michigan. 

He was hauling meat through Illinois, and when he stopped to refuel, his brakes froze. He was stranded, and called his company for a repair unit. While he waited for hours for help, he nearly froze to death.

He couldn’t feel his legs. It was negative 14 degrees in the truck. He needed to get to shelter or risk losing his limbs, or worse. But his company fired him – they claimed he abandoned his cargo.

Mr. Maddin later returned to get the cargo, and completed his job, but it didn’t matter. To that company, the cargo was more important than his life. 

And to Judge Gorsuch, that corporation’s interests were more important than Mr. Maddin’s health and his life.

That’s what we mean when we say he puts corporations ahead of workers. 

Or take look at the case of a mother who had leukemia, and had to take time off for treatment. After the treatment was over, her doctors advised her not to return to work quite yet – there was a flu epidemic, and her immune system was compromised from the chemotherapy.

But her employer told her she needed to show up within the week, or they would fire her, despite 15 years of dedicated service. 

I’m sure you can guess who Judge Gorsuch sided with – it was not the worker suffering from cancer who had dedicated a decade and a half to her employer and who wanted nothing more than to return to work.

This woman’s daughter, Katherine, said that when Judge Gorsuch issued his ruling, “He didn’t think about the impact that this had on our family.” 

She said his ruling “set the precedent that a company’s needs come before” workers like her mother. 

At a time when Americans are working longer and harder than ever before, but with less and less to show for it, the last thing we need is to elevate someone who sees workers as nothing more than a cost to be minimized. 

That’s what is at stake here – we are talking about putting someone on the court who wants to give corporations special rights, but has a record of ignoring the rights of ordinary people.

Judge Gorsuch’s record makes clear that he could turn back the clock on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. On LGBT rights. On clean air and water. On safe food and medicine. 

That’s what’s at stake here. If the Senate does not reject this nomination, the decisions Judge Gorsuch hands down will haunt our nation for generations.  

My opposition to this nominee has nothing to do with what has occurred in the Senate over the past eight years, and has everything to do with what could happen over the next hundred. 

This is about our children and our grandchildren.

Seven of the eight current Justices have met the 60 vote benchmark. With so much at stake, it’s up to Judge Gorsuch to earn the votes of sixty members of this body.

I don’t believe someone who fundamentally gives corporations more rights than individual citizens can earn that broad support. And the solution isn’t to change the rules, it’s to change the nominee.

The American people need a Supreme Court justice who looks out for the interests of all Americans – not just the powerful and the privileged.