The following is a transcript of an interview with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker that aired Sunday, September 30, 2020, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who joins us from his home in Newark. Good morning to you, Senator.
SENATOR CORY BOOKER: Good morning. Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m hoping you can hear me OK. As we laid out earlier, Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish was that it would be the next president who would nominate her successor. As you heard from your Republican colleague, they’re charging ahead with this process despite that. Is there anything Democrats can do to stop the nomination?
SEN. BOOKER: Well, first of all, I- I can only imagine that Justice Ginsburg- Ginsburg understood that the legitimacy of the Supreme Court at a time that other institutions in our democracy have been losing legitimacy, have been under attack. I think she believed that the legitimacy of the court was so profoundly important. And this is one of those moments with so much at stake, from civil rights to voting rights to health care in and of itself, these decisions that the Supreme Court makes, it’s important that they not only have the force of law, but the force of the legitimacy of everyone. So for Republicans to move forward like this, I think really undermines that. And again, the Senate is controlled by Mitch McConnell. He’ll have a tremendous amount of control now. And so I’m not sure exactly how this will play out. But again, we’ve seen moments like this before where health care was on- in the balance. And the American public, speaking out, got people like John McCain and a couple of my other colleagues to change their vote and do the right thing. So we’ll see how this plays out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you’re appealing to morality, but tactically speaking, is there anything Democrats can do? I mean, you do have this government funding deadline coming up. Can you use that leverage?
SEN. BOOKER: Yeah, again, I think that there will be a lot that will play out over the coming days. But it is clearly two things are of great importance. One is to appeal- a moral appeal to people who clearly stated what they would do under these circumstances. For them to go against their word is pretty significant in the public space in terms of their own honor and legitimacy. So we’ll see how that plays out. And in addition to that, election has already begun. If there’s any more convincing that the public needs about what’s at stake, we see some of the most fundamental ideals of our nation that have been settled in many ways, the right for a woman to control her body, the basic understanding of civil rights law, all of that now is in the balance. And I think that this should motivate people significantly to speak up, let their voices be heard and be involved in this process.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Back in 2016, when Merrick Garland was nominated by President Obama, a Democratic president when Democrats were in the minority, you said the Senate has no excuse to ignore blockade or stonewall consideration of this nominee. Why a different standard now?
SEN. BOOKER: Well, first of all, 269 days before an election, I felt very clearly that President Obama should have had been able to name a nominee, and we should have taken it up in the Senate, even had people meet with that nominee. And it is unfortunate that that did not happen. I think that that greatly undermined really a- a sense of what was right. Now voting has already started. And we had literally my colleague speaking to what the rules should be, what the guiding principles they were operating on. And so for now for them to so severely violate their own words, I think does a tremendous amount of damage to the institution of the Senate as well as to the legitimacy of the court. And we’ve got to start stepping back and having our larger view of history. It’s not just the hotly contested issues of civil rights and women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, all that’s really in the balance here, but also the long term strength of our democracy and the institutions that are so critical to our success as a nation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So–
SEN. BOOKER: This is one of those moments where I wish we would step back and take a beat and understand what we’re doing and the consequences and how they could radiate throughout time.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So- so what I hear you saying is what’s different is that voting is already underway. With that in mind, you are a Biden surrogate. Joe Biden has repeatedly said he intends to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. If you’re asking people to come out and vote on their considerations and concern about the Supreme Court, wouldn’t it help if he released his nominees? Is that something you think he should do?
SEN. BOOKER: Again, I think that this- what Donald Trump started as an appeal to a far right base, really a list from the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, that really broke with tradition. I think the president needs to evaluate it when he is the president and make his decision. And what Vice President Biden decides to do now to me is- is secondary to the urgency of this election and all of those who value their health care and understand that these are issues that will be played out by the Supreme Court and the Senate who- issues from climate change to voting rights, all of this is on the ballot. That should be the motivating factor, not necessarily what names that Vice President Biden may or may not decide to do. What’s important right now is the urgency of this election to a lot of the fundamental issues that affect our daily lives.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I admire your focus for keeping going despite that horn there in the background in Newark. Senator, the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, has said nothing’s off the table if Republicans go through with this. He’s talking about what happens next year. The progressives within your party, some of them are pushing to pack the court, to add more justices to the Supreme Court. Do you support expanding it?
SEN. BOOKER: Look, there’s a double presumption in there that I- I just do not want people to lose focus on. Number one, you can still–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well it is being openly called for–
SEN. BOOKER: –appeal like we did in the health care battle.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –by someone in your party.
SEN. BOOKER: I- I understand that, but let me tell you what this United States senator is openly calling for. Number one, letting your voices be heard now to appeal to the decency and honor of people who spoke what this process should be. And number two is this election. Unless we win the Senate back, unless we win the White House, all these questions are just hypothetical and moot. We need to focus on what is at hand. We have already begun voting in a number of United States. Early ballots are going out across this country. We need to win this election. Everything is on the line and that should be, in my opinion, the focus right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Senator Booker, thank you very much for your time and your reflections this morning. We will be right back.
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