Durbin Delivers Opening Statement During Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing On The Department Of Justice

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Department of Justice.”  In his opening statement, Durbin argued that the Department of Justice under Attorney General Merrick Garland has returned to its traditional and proper role—it is no longer the personal law firm of a sitting President, but rather the country’s leading defender of the rule of law.  Durbin also noted that the Justice Department is fighting to defend American values and our constitutional rights, including civil rights, the right to bodily autonomy, and the right to equal protection under the law.

Key quotes: 

“Today marks the Senate Judiciary Committee’s first oversight hearing of the 118th Congress.  Last Congress we held more than a dozen oversight hearings and honored the Committee’s historic Constitutional responsibility to provide oversight to the agencies of our government.  It is this responsibility, under Article 1 of the Constitution, to serve as a check and balance on the Executive Branch, whether the President happens to be a Republican or a Democrat.” 

“Attorney General Garland, welcome.  This is the third time you have appeared before this Committee since you became Attorney General.  You have many pressing responsibilities, and I appreciate you taking the time to be here today.”

“There are so many subjects under your jurisdiction worthy of close examination, which I will turn to a few in a moment, but we should not take for granted that we now have a Department of Justice with a renewed dedication.”

“When you were sworn into office two years ago, the Department was embroiled in scandal. You committed to restoring its independence, and I believe you have kept your word.  I expect that we will hear accusations today from some of my Republican colleagues to the contrary, such as ‘weaponization’ of the Justice Department.  The reality is you have recommitted the Department to serving the American people—and not the personal interests of any one political figure.”

“Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues have turned a blind eye to the actual weaponization of the Justice Department during the previous Administration.”

“Your actions in the last two years should reassure the American people that the Justice Department should not and does not operate as the servant of any president.”

“The Justice Department has important constitutional responsibilities.  It must protect the civil rights of the vulnerable.  It must respond to threats to our nation, both domestic and international.  It must hold accountable those who violate the laws passed by Congress.”

“More than 6,800—6,800—Americans have died from gunfire in the first two months of this year.  There have been at least 94 mass shootings – more than one every single day this year.  I look forward to hearing how the Department is using new tools that Congress approved in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to quell this violence.”

“In March 2021, FBI Director Wray testified, under oath, before this Committee that the threat of domestic terrorism is ‘metastasizing’ throughout the country. I look forward to hearing your response to that extremist threat.”

“We will discuss the full implementation of the bipartisan First Step Act, which is showing meaningful progress in responsibly reducing recidivism and making our criminal justice system fairer.”

“And we will discuss the importance of preserving Americans’ civil rights and protecting them from attacks on their bodily autonomy, especially after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.”

“The sunset of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act this year provides an opportunity to implement much-needed reforms to keep America both safe and free.”

“And the Department must continue to hold steadfast to the principles of equity and access, despite resistance from those who are threatened by an even playing field.”

“As more citizens face greater impediments to exercising their constitutional right to vote and an increase in incidents of hate violence, the Department must defend America’s bedrock values.”

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.