Friday, January 13, 2006

Senate Judiciary Day Four: Alito Done Testifying

Judge Samuel Alito finished testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday and only two Senate votes – one from the committee, the other from the full Senate -- lie between him and a major rightward shift of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alito testified for only half a day yesterday, with yet more unrevealing answers on right-to-die cases and his conflict-of-interest problems with his Vanguard investments. The remainder of the day was spent with the committee in a closed session to consider the FBI's report on him, which is standard procedure.

And, despite his membership in the racist, Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP), it doesn't look like the Democrats are willing to go to the mat and filibuster this guy. Which makes you wonder, based on what we've found out about CAP, what would be filibuster-worthy – if Alito showed up for his confirmation hearings in a white robe and hood?

"We still do not have a clear answer to why Judge Alito joined this reprehensible group in the first place," said Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), at the end of his allotted time. "We still do not know why he believed that membership in the group would enhance his job application in the Reagan Justice Department. We still don't know why he chose this organization among so many other organizations that he likely belonged to, but somehow can't remember why."

Despite this issue, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Judiciary Committee, hinted that Democrats would not attempt to filibuster, which would require Republicans to gain 60 votes – they have 55 already -- to advance the nomination. "When you consider the numbers involved, it is unlikely," he said.

This blog's Democratic Weasel of the Year in 2005, Ben Nelson (D-NE), lived down to expectations, saying he would undoubtedly vote to confirm Alito on the Senate floor.

"So far I have seen nothing during my interview with the nominee, the background materials that have been produced or through the committee process that I would consider a disqualifying issue against Judge Alito," said Nelson.

Kennedy stayed strong in representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

"In case after case, we see legal contortions and inconsistent reasoning to bend over backwards to help the powerful," said Kennedy. "He may cite instances to think that he helped the little guy, but the record's clear that the average person has a hard time getting a fair shake in Judge Alito's courtroom."

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the nominee directly that his refusal to give honest answers, coupled with his judicial record, makes it very difficult to vote for his nomination.

"Unfortunately, by refusing to confront our questions directly and by giving us responses that really don't illuminate how you really think, as opposed to real answers, many of us have no choice but to conclude that you still embrace those views completely or in large part and would continue in a similar fashion on the Supreme Court," Schumer said.

And Schumer is right.

After three days and hundreds of questions, we know little more about this guy than we did on Tuesday morning, as he successful avoided giving substantive answers to issues including abortion rights, presidential power and his own membership in a demonstrably racist organization.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, refused to participate in the brazen conflict of interest that took place when sitting judges, who may someday have cases heard by a Supreme Court Justice Alito, came to praise him before the committee.

"Insofar as the current judges, their cases are appealed to the Supreme Court, and if Judge Alito becomes a member of the Supreme Court he’ll have to rule on their appeals -- appeals from their decisions," said Leahy to chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA). "And so I think rather than create a difficultly for them, or for Judge Alito, if he is confirmed, I think I will not avail myself of a chance to ask questions of this unprecedented panel.”

The hearings are scheduled to conclude today with testimony from more of the nominee's supporters and opponents, with Judiciary Chairman Specter hoping for a committee vote next week and a full Senate vote the following week.

Is Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid dissatisfied enough to push for a filibuster? I guess we'll see next week.

Said Reid at the end of the day yesterday: "Judge Alito’s responses did little to address my serious concerns about his 15-year judicial record. I have not forgotten that Judge Alito was only nominated after the radical right wing of the President's party forced Harriet Miers to withdraw. The right wing insisted that Justice O'Connor be replaced with a sure vote for their extreme agenda. Four days of hearings have shown that Judge Alito is no Sandra Day O'Connor."