Sen. Leahy Speaks on Judiciary Committee
Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, told a gathering of lawyers in San Francisco today that his concerns as the new chairman of the Judiciary Committee include privacy rights, the war in Iraq and the balancing of freedom and national security.
Leahy said, "I don't think freedom and security should be mutually exclusive in America. Let's get back to where we have a balance.
"We can do better," the senator said.
Leahy, a senator since 1975, became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January after voters in the November election made Democrats the Senate majority.
He spoke on "Restoring Oversight and Constitutional Values: A Fresh Start for the Senate Judiciary Committee" at a luncheon sponsored by the Bar Association of San Francisco, the American Constitution Society and the World Affairs Council.
The outspoken senator charged that Congress has been a "lapdog" and "rubber stamp" for the Bush Administration during the past six years and said Congress must be an independent branch of government.
On the subject of Iraq, Leahy said, "Congress has the power to start a war. I want to find out what powers Congress has to stop a war, especially a war that in my opinion is one of the biggest mistakes the United States has ever made."
Leahy said that "privacy belongs to all of us" and should not be sacrificed in government wiretapping and electronic surveillance that has not been authorized by a court.
When asked by a law professor about the confirmation process for the two most recent Supreme Court appointments, Leahy said, "I don't think the confirmation process has been adequate."
He said that when the next Supreme Court nomination is made, he wants to work with members of both parties to ensure that senators can "ask real questions" during Judiciary Committee hearings.
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