Alito Hearings Underway
The Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito are finally underway, with both sides doing their normal posturing:
Democrats promised Samuel Alito tough questions on executive power, privacy rights and abortion as the Senate Judiciary Committee opened confirmation hearings Monday on President Bush’s choice to become the nation’s 110th Supreme Court justice. In a prelude to days of grilling, several Democrats expressed misgivings about Alito’s 15 years of decisions and opinions as an appellate judge and his writings during his tenure as a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department. “Your record raises troubling questions about whether you appreciate the checks and balances in our Constitution Ã¢€” the careful efforts of our Founding Fathers to protect us from a government or a president determined to seize too much power over our lives,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
The hearings opened amid a growing debate over executive authority and Bush’s secret decision to order the National Security Agency to wiretap Americans in the terror war. “In an era when the White House is abusing power, is excusing and authorizing torture and is spying on American citizens, I find Judge Alito’s support for an all-powerful executive branch to be genuinely troubling,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis.: “We need judges who see themselves as custodians of the rights and freedoms that the Constitution guarantees, even when the president of the United States is telling the country that he should be able to decide unilaterally how far those freedoms go.” Republican Sen. Mike DeWine (news, bio, voting record) of Ohio offered a counterpoint. “Your modest approach to judging seems to bode well for our democracy,” he said.
Alito, said Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, “has a reputation for being an exceptional and honest judge devoted to the rule of law, and a man of integrity.”
Alito, 55, introduced members of his family Ã¢€” including his wife Martha, sister Rosemary and his son and daughter Ã¢€” and then sat and listened to the opening statements from the first of the committee’s 18 members. Only after their remarks would the nominee get a chance to make his opening statement.
Politics loomed large in the confirmation process, but Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah urged his colleagues to put them aside in assessing Alito’s qualifications. “We must apply a judicial, not a political, standard to this record,” Hatch said.
Not bloody likely.
Meanwhile, public opinion is on Alito’s side.
A majority of Americans favor the confirmation of federal appeals court judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court and an even larger proportion believe Alito would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 high court ruling that legalized abortion, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. As hearings begin today in the Senate on his nomination, the survey found that 53 percent of the public says Alito should be confirmed to serve on the court–virtually identical to the proportion that supported John Roberts’ confirmation as chief justice four months ago. One in four–27 percent–say Alito should be rejected by the Senate.
That’s subject to change, of course, if the hearings go badly.
Steve Bainbridge is all over the hearings, including a nice rebuttal of the major anti-Alito talking points and the spectacle of the Senator from Chappaquiddick lecturing Alito on ethics.
Michelle Malkin is more-or-less liveblogging the festivities.