Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today delivered remarks on gun violence and the 100-year-old blue slip tradition:
“On behalf of this side of the aisle, I want to send our deepest condolences, regrets and candidly, grief, to the families and loved ones of the 17 lives we lost yesterday in Parkland, Florida.
Among those included an assistant football coach who heroically shielded students from the shooter when he was shot.
But today grief and sorrow on our part is really not adequate because for the past 25 years I have seen this committee do exactly that, and do nothing to put to a stop the weapons of war that are sold all across our land to virtually all comers.
Those precious lives were snuffed out by a 19-year-old former student at the same high school, armed with an AR-15 and multiple high-capacity magazines.
I gather he had his own lockbox in his own room and kept his own modified weapon of war.
This school shooting in Florida was the 18th school shooting in this country in the first 44 days of 2018.
I want everybody to know we’ve been here before, and it’s horrifying to think of the lives that are lost every day to gun violence while we sit here in Congress.
On October 1st of last year, 58 people were shot to death in Las Vegas, Nevada by a single 64-year old gunman.
Four days later we sat around this table during a business meeting and did nothing to address that massacre. I proposed a modest proposal to ban the crude devices used in that mass shooting to convert a semi-automatic weapon to automatic the same way machine guns fire—and machine guns are banned.
At the time, several Senate Republicans agreed and publicly stated that such devices should not be available to civilians. And yet, we cannot get any action on this proposal in this committee while bump stocks are still flooding our streets. It’s amazing to me.
It’s so frighteningly easy for someone to obtain guns in this country, and guns are getting just more and more lethal.
I’ve tracked the growing sophistication of weapons for 25 years since I first came here and we passed the original assault weapons ban.
Back then, we worked to make sure that hunting rifles were exempted. The problem at that time, and when I wrote the bill, I went to every member I could find to say: ‘What would it take for you to support this?’ And they said: ‘I have to be assured that hunting weapons are not affected.’ And we achieved that. And the bill passed.
But now guns are more powerful. High-capacity magazines are now larger. And even bullets are more destructive.
Police officers tell us how there’s absolutely no reason for civilians, hunters or otherwise to have weapons of war on our streets. And on and on it goes.
Even the month after Las Vegas, on November 17th, 26 people were shot and killed in Sutherland [Springs], Texas. Two senators here represent that great state.
Once again, four days later, we sat around this table and spoke about it, but we’ve been unable to get anything done to address that massacre.
Senator Cornyn put forth a proposal to fix the background check, but even that has not been taken up.
And yesterday, 17 individuals—many of them teenagers—were killed at their high school.
So I ask today, why are once again sitting around this table? Why don’t we pass some legislation?
I don’t think we can continue to wait. The statistics are too compelling. This isn’t going to stop, members. It’s going to continue. And we become culpable when we do nothing to stop it.
So I feel a kind of anger today. You know, the custom is don’t speak about it. You just express grief on the day after. Well, I’m tired of just doing that.
I’m tired of children getting shot. I thought [Sandy] Hook was going to be the end of this. I thought that would compel action. We put a bill together. We tried. It failed. What are we going to do? How many school shootings do we need in a given year?
So I’m here to say, Mr. Chairman, please, let’s take some action. We cannot see this continue on.
You can pass the Fix NICS bill and the bump stocks. Nobody likes these devices. You can’t have automatic weapons on the streets. It’s easy to fix. Why don’t we do it?”
“I really want to back up what Senator Whitehouse just said. This is a 100-year-old tradition. It’s not an official policy.
It’s not a rule, but it has been the tradition. In fact, since its inception, no Democratic chair of the Judiciary Committee has ever held a hearing for a judicial nominee over the objection of a Republican senator. That’s fact and it’s history.
Senator Baldwin from Wisconsin made clear in very moving remarks to me, and I know she spoke to Senator Grassley, that she wasn’t asking for special treatment.
She was simply asking for her basic right as it has existed for every senator on this—every senator—for 100 years. And she was in fact denied it.
I think this is a huge mistake because it’s removing a kind of collegiality that we have had. I mean, I remember the meeting that we had on this with the Leader. I think the intent to do away with the blue slip on the Republican side is clear.
I think it’s a huge mistake and a big mistake for this committee, Mr. Chairman.
This man on my left has stood up as chairman of the committee and defended the blue slip. I’m pleased he’s going to be able to speak, but this is really a hallmark change in how we operate, and it’s meant to give senators of a state from which an appointment comes, an opportunity to review that and have some influence on the process. It’s worked for 100 years and now we’re doing away with it.”