Executive Sessionby Senator Patrick J. Toomey
Posted on 2016-01-11
TOOMEY. Mr. President, I rise to speak on the upcoming
confirmation vote of Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo to serve on the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
I wish to thank Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy for moving Judge Restrepo's nomination through their committee.
I also thank Leader McConnell for scheduling this confirmation vote, which will take place in short order.
I also wish to thank my colleague Senator Casey. Senator Casey and I have been working very closely for 5 years now, since I joined the Senate, working to fill the vacancies that occur on the Federal bench across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that we represent. With Judge Restrepo's confirmation tonight, which I am hopeful and confident will occur, Senator Casey and I will have been able to play a role in filling 16 vacancies on the Federal bench, including 14 district court vacancies that have occurred since the time I arrived in Senate and two Third Circuit court vacancies. There are only two States in the Union that have had more vacancies filled in the last 5 years, and those two States are California and New York. They are very large States, of course, and have a large number of vacancies.
Again, I thank Senator Casey for the very constructive working relationship we have developed to make sure that the people of Pennsylvania are able to access justice in a sensible and efficient fashion. Because we have worked closely together, not only have we filled these vacancies, but we have filled courthouses--Federal courthouses meant to house Federal judges--that have been vacant for years. As a result, Reading, PA, now has a Federal judge serving in that courthouse. People in the surrounding area of Williamsport, PA, had to drive great distances to get to a Federal court, and now there is a judge serving in Williamsport. Easton, PA--likewise, the people in North Hampton County who had to drive all the way to Philadelphia to have a case dealt with can now do that in Easton. I think, and I hope, we are close to filling an empty courthouse in Erie, PA. Erie is kind of by itself out there in the northwest corner of our great State, and there ought to be Federal judge in the Erie courthouse. We are well in the process of making sure that there will be, and I am sure it will come to a close soon.
Back to Judge Restrepo. The fact is Judge Restrepo is very well qualified to serve on the Third Circuit. He has served as a Federal district court judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania since June of 2013. I was very pleased, along with Senator Casey, to have recommended Judge Restrepo to the White House for that post and to have supported his confirmation to the district court.
In 2013, Judge Restrepo was confirmed unanimously on the Senate floor. I would love to see that occur again this evening with respect to his confirmation to the circuit court. Prior to his appointment as a district court judge, Judge Restrepo served for 7 years as a Federal magistrate judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and for 13 years prior to that, Judge Restrepo was a partner in the law firm of Krasner and Restrepo, handling criminal defense cases. Before that, he worked at the public defenders' office at the Federal and State levels.
In many ways, Judge Restrepo's life story is a classic American dream story. He was born in Medellin, Colombia, and became a U.S. citizen in 1993. He has devoted a great deal of his time and energy and considerable intellect to serving his community. He served on the board of the Make-a-Wish Foundation for Philadelphia and Susquehanna Valley. This is a foundation that grants wishes to children who have life- threatening illnesses. Judge Restrepo also gave his time to the Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia.
I am very confident that Judge Restrepo has the judicial experience, legal acumen, intellect, integrity, and dedication to public service to do the job that we expect him to do on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate Judiciary Committee apparently shares my confidence, having passed his nomination out of committee with a voice vote.
I am pleased to speak on behalf of this highly qualified nominee, and I urge all of my colleagues to support his confirmation.
Tribute to Officer Jesse Hartnett Mr. President, I wish to briefly address one other item this evening before I yield the floor. I want to speak about the appalling shooting that occurred in Philadelphia just last Thursday evening when a shooter attempted to assassinate a police officer in the name of ISIS on the streets of Philadelphia. The shooter wasn't counting on the amazing bravery of Philadelphia Police Officer Jesse Hartnett.
It was late, about 11:30 at night on Thursday, and apparently a man waved down Jesse Hartnett as he was driving along in his police cruiser. Officer Hartnett stopped the cruiser. The man walked over as if to ask for directions, and instead, out of the blue, he started firing shots at pointblank range into the driver's side window at Officer Hartnett. He kept walking up to the car. As he walked, he kept shooting. At one point he actually had his arm, with the gun, inside the window of the car and was still shooting. In total, the shooter fired 13 shots.
Cameras that happened to be in that area captured the incident. It is absolutely amazing that Officer Hartnett managed to survive. It is amazing. But he didn't just survive. He jumped out of his patrol car. He had been hit three times and was very seriously injured. His arm was bleeding profusely. He got out of his car and chased down the shooter. He shot and wounded the would-be killer, and because of his heroic action while literally under fire, the shooter was apprehended.
This is an amazing example of true grit, and the people of Pennsylvania couldn't be more proud of Officer Hartnett. Our prayers are certainly with Officer Hartnett and his family. He has a very difficult recovery ahead of him. He has already had one surgery. My understanding is that he has undergone a second surgery today, or is in the process of undergoing that surgery. The [[Page S18]] doctors are trying to save his arm, which was badly injured.
I want to be clear about this. What happened that Thursday night was an act of terrorism. It was an act of terrorism inspired by violent Islamic extremism. The shooter reportedly declared that he had pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State. He said that he was targeting police officers because he believes that the police are defending and enforcing laws that are contrary to the Koran, and the shooter himself said that he acted in the name of Islam and the Islamic State.
We don't know for sure yet whether the shooter has direct personal ties to ISIS abroad, but the FBI has reported that the shooter traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2011 and then went to Egypt for several months in 2012. Regardless of what he was doing over there or what his purpose was, we should make no mistake; this was an act of terrorism just as the shootings at Fort Hood and San Bernardino were.
Let me be abundantly clear. I think everyone obviously knows that this cop killer--this would-be cop killer--doesn't represent all Muslims. No one would suggest that, but he does represent a terrible strain of violent Islamic extremism, a strain that has amassed millions of dollars, has followers all around the planet, and is, in fact, at war with America.
ISIS and the violent Islamic extremists that are followers of ISIS pose a very serious threat to America. We have seen this repeatedly now, including in my home State of Pennsylvania in the City of Philadelphia. We are very fortunate. We have incredibly courageous law enforcement officers, such as Officer Hartnett, protecting us, but we shouldn't in any way diminish the magnitude and gravity of this threat.
I commend Officer Jesse Hartnett for his bravery. To Officer Hartnett and his family, please know that the people of Pennsylvania are behind you, thinking of you, and praying for a full and speedy recovery.
With that, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.