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Democrats Turn Up the Heat on Alito, Question Nominee’s ‘Inconsistencies’

Don’t understand why his wife was sniveling and crying about this. I think she was just trying to get some camera time!

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2006
By: Associated Press and BlackAmericaWeb.com

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito came under aggressive questioning Wednesday from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee who accused him of inconsistencies on issues ranging from voting rights to ethics to his membership in a conservative organization.

On the third day of confirmation hearings, Democrats also expressed frustration as Alito described the landmark 1973 ruling legalizing abortion as “an important precedent” but declined to echo Chief Justice John Roberts, who has called it settled law.

Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told BlackAmericaWeb.com Wednesday that Alito, a staunch conservative, is deft at sidestepping controversial topics and giving the appearance that he’s become more moderate over the years.

“He’s very intellectually bright guy, so it’s not surprising that he’s able to finesse some of these questions,” Watt said Wednesday. “A zebra doesn’t change its stripes overnight, but he says what he needs to say to get through this process.”

Watt said when it comes to discrimination cases, Alito has consistently dismissed cases in the early stages, which prevents black American plaintiffs from having their day in court.

“This is very dangerous for African-Americans because we don’t always have the resources to research and hire investigators to prove our cases,” Watt said. “We feel it, but we can’t prove it.”

Watt added that Alito also endorses a philosophy that would allow the executive branch “to do whatever it wants.” He said Alito would prefer a Supreme Court that would “rubber-stamp the administration, which means an imperial presidency. This is very dangerous, although it’s hard to get people to focus on this issue.”

Republicans on the panel dismissed the criticism and defended Alito, President Bush’s choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, as a conservative jurist with a solid 15-year record on the federal appeals court.

The GOP holds the majority in the Senate—55-44 with one independent—and Alito is expected to win confirmation to the high court when the Senate votes later this month. The Democrats’ only hope of scuttling the nomination rests with defections among the GOP ranks and solid opposition among its own members.

After challenging the 55-year-old Alito’s court record and Reagan-era writings on Tuesday, Democrats took a new tack in accusing him of inconsistency.

“A number of us have been troubled by what we see as inconsistencies in some of the answers,” Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont, the panel’s ranking Democrat, told Alito.

Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois cited Alito’s testimony Tuesday in which he said he would have an open mind if faced with the question of abortion on the Supreme Court. The senator said the nominee’s writings and testimony suggested otherwise, with “a mind that sadly is closed in some instances.”

Leahy listed several concerns, among them Alito’s comments on the principle of one-man, one-vote and his inability to recall details about his membership—which he listed on a Reagan administration job application—in a conservative organization that opposed the admission of women and minorities at Princeton University, Alito’s alma mater.

At one point during the hearings, a heated discussion erupted between Sen. Arlen Specter, (R-PA) and Sen. Edward Kennedy, (D-MA) after Kennedy criticized Alito’s membership in a conservative Princeton alumni group that opposed admitting more women and minorities to the university. Kennedy called for the committee to subpoena records of the alumni group, housed in the Library of Congress.

Specter and his fellow Republicans dismissed Kennedy and his call for the subpoena.

“Having failed to distort Judge Alito’s distinguished record on the bench, today Senator Kennedy tried to smear Sam Alito’s character,” Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement. “Throughout his career, Samuel Alito has proven his commitment to the highest ethical principles and a fair and just America. This good man does not need a lecture from Ted Kennedy.”

Democrats also voiced concern about Alito’s answers concerning whether he told the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that he should not be hearing cases involving investment company Vanguard. He holds six-figure investments with Vanguard.

Alito promised the Judiciary Committee at his 1990 confirmation hearing as an appellate judge that he would remove himself from cases that present a conflict of interest. He said his participation in a 2002 Vanguard case was an oversight, although he also said he didn’t do anything wrong. The American Bar Association and his supporters have accepted that explanation.

Alito would replace O’Connor, the swing vote on issues such as abortion, affirmative action and the death penalty during her 25 years on the court.

Republicans complained that Democrats had already made up their minds about Alito.

“I do think that there are those who have already decided to vote against your nomination and are looking for some reason to do so,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “And I think one of the reasons that they may claim is that you’ve been nonresponsive.” Cornyn said he saw nothing to derail Alito’s confirmation.

Alito and the senators have covered a wide range of contentious issues, but the judge has not staked out any new or controversial positions.

Asked repeatedly about abortion, he assured the committee on Tuesday he would first take previous rulings into account. At the same time, he stressed that precedent, including the Roe v. Wade decision, is not binding on the high court.

“I would approach the question with an open mind and I would listen to the arguments that were made,” Alito said.

On another subject, he said Tuesday that the Bill of Rights applies “in times of war and in times of national crisis,” although he declined to specify whether Bush acted properly in ordering wiretaps without warrants in selected cases as part of the war on terror.

Leahy first mentioned Alito’s membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group that opposed admission of increased numbers of women and minorities.

“I really have no specific recollection of that organization,” Alito said, although he did not dispute that he belonged to it.

Democrats used much of their time to try to tear down Alito’s past opinions, statements and speeches as a judge and a conservative lawyer for the Reagan administration, while Republicans used much of their time trying to defend him from that criticism.

Sen. Russ Feingold. D-Wis., pressed Alito on whether he actually told the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that he should not be hearing cases involving investment company Vanguard. He holds six-figure investments with Vanguard.

“So you don’t recall whether you notified them or not?” Feingold asked.

“I do not. No,” Alito said.

Alito promised the Judiciary Committee at his 1990 confirmation hearing as an appellate judge that he would remove himself from cases involving Vanguard. His participation in a 2002 Vanguard case was an oversight although he said he didn’t do anything wrong, Alito said. The American Bar Association and his supporters have accepted that explanation.

“If I had to do it over again,” Alito said, “there are things that I would do differently.”


Posted by loni on 01/12 at 12:58 PM in News

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