Chairman Quigley Statement at Hearing on Supreme Court's FY 2020 Budget Request
Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL), Chair of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2020 budget request for the U.S. Supreme Court:
This hearing will come to order.
I want to thank Justice Alito and Justice Kagan for taking time out of their busy schedules to join us.
I know it is not every day that I can compare myself to two Supreme Court Justices, but today both Justices and I have something in common.
This is my first Supreme Court hearing as Chairman of this subcommittee and I know for both of you, this is the first time you are testifying before this subcommittee.
So, I want to welcome you both.
Additionally, this is the first Supreme Court public hearing since 2015 and as Chairman of this subcommittee, it is my intent to hold a hearing with the Supreme Court at least once a year to discuss the resources needed for the highest court and to hear your thoughts regarding America’s court system.
I think hearings such as this one is a great way for the public to get more exposure to our third branch.
Today’s hearing provides us with an opportunity to exchange ideas, discuss pertinent issues, and get a better insight into the Judicial Branch.
The exchanges between our two branches are important as each branch plays a distinct role in our government.
While we must collaborate with one another, we also must preserve appropriate autonomy in judiciary governance, management, and decision-making.
Our two branches walk a delicate line in that we must work together, but remain separate in order for our democracy to uphold the intentions of our Founding Fathers.
I would like to thank the Justices for their recent budget request.
I’m always impressed with the Court’s dedication to cost containment and desire to save taxpayer dollars which has been demonstrated through the Supreme Court’s consolidation of payroll, financial, and HR services as well as their efforts to use in house staff to manage IT projects when possible.
This does not go unnoticed by this subcommittee and is appreciated.
Your mission is critical to the pillars of our nation and we thank you for your judicious and very effective use of the taxpayers’ dollars.
The Supreme Court’s fiscal year 2020 request includes funding for the Supreme Court justices and employees as well as rent, travel, and other expenses.
This represents a modest 3.5 percent increase over the fiscal year 2019 budget.
I look forward to hearing from you on what you hope to accomplish in fiscal year 2020 with this funding.
Taking a step back, Congress provided an increase of $5.6 million for 34 new positions to address security needs.
This was a critical request and I am pleased that Congress was able to fund it.
The safety of the Justices as well as all those who work and visit the Supreme Court should not be at risk.
Let’s continue to keep this dialogue on the ongoing security upgrades and additional resources needed to maintain a secure and welcoming Supreme Court environment open.
I also want to briefly speak about an issue I care very strongly about and that’s providing the American people with more access to view Supreme Court cases.
As Justice Brandeis famously wrote, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
That statement, while almost cliché now, still rings true.
Whether you are here in Washington or in the comfort of your own home, you can watch Congress and the executive branch in action on C-SPAN.
This is an important part of making our nation’s legislative and executive branch open and transparent to all Americans.
But one government institution remains closed to the public eye – the U.S. Supreme Court.
Supreme Court decisions on major cases from Brown v. Board of Education to Bush v. Gore have significantly shaped American society and changed history.
Unfortunately, due to antiquated practices and policies, we have no video record of these historic decisions.
In 2019, with so much new and innovative technology at our fingertips, it is time we use every tool available to preserve America’s judicial history.
Beyond cameras in the court, most Americans have no idea how Supreme Court proceedings even work.
I had the opportunity to be one of the few who got to sit in on court proceedings when I attended oral arguments in the case concerning Chicago’s hand gun ban.
This is an opportunity that should be available to all Americans.
In the past, arguments on marriage equality have drawn substantive crowds, causing people to line up days in advance in order to gain access to the Court.
It is not unreasonable for the American people to have an opportunity to hear firsthand the arguments and opinions that will shape their society for years to come.
The decision to release same day audio from certain cases only highlights the fact that the Supreme Court has the technological capability to share audio of its proceedings with the American public quickly.
Lastly, as I said earlier, I think it is important for our two branches to keep an open dialogue and discuss issues when necessary and not only once a year at a hearing such as this.
So, please know that we are always happy to meet with you and discuss your concerns.
So Justice Alito and Justice Kagan, we look forward to hearing from you about the resources that you need to carry out your constitutional responsibility and look forward to working with you in the new Congress.
Before I turn to our witnesses for their statements, I would like to recognize, Mr. Graves, for his opening remarks.