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Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin

Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Sam Alito begin tomorrow. According to Bloomberg News, Sens. Schumer and Kennedy have not ruled out a filibuster.

This New York Times editorial succinctly describes the hot-button issues:

He has a lengthy and often troubling record he will have to explain away. As a government lawyer, he worked to overturn Roe v. Wade. He has disturbing beliefs on presidential power - a critical issue for the country right now. He has worked to sharply curtail Congress's power to pass laws and protect Americans. He may not even believe in "one person one vote."

The Times also points out that Alito's confirmation is not a done deal in the eyes of the public.

In a new Harris poll, just 34 percent of those surveyed said they thought he should be confirmed, while 31 percent said he should not, and 34 percent were unsure. Nearly 70 percent said they would oppose Judge Alito's nomination if they thought he would vote to make abortion illegal - which it appears he might well do.

The Nation has a list of questions it would like Senators to ask Alito about a variety of issues. Nomination Watch by the Women's National Law Center is focusing on privacy and reproductive freedom issues. Here's their top ten list of what to watch for. People for the American Way have a 155 page report on Alito, and a guide for cracking the codes used at the hearing.

I hope Alito's record on criminal justice issues and views of presidential power get a lot of attention. The American Constitution Society has this white paper (pdf) on Alito's death penalty record.

For hearing news related to all issues, Howard Bashman of How Appealing will have the best roundup. Sentencing Law and Policy recaps its coverage here on crime and justice issues. Armando at Daily Kos is another must read.

The Washington Post Monday reports Democrats will fight Alito.

Ralph Neas of People for the American Way reminds us not to assume Alito will be confirmed.

"It's amazing how often the conventional wisdom in this town is wrong," said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group that led the opposition to the 1987 nomination of Robert Bork and is leading the opposition to Judge Alito. "Going into the Bork hearings, Bork was favored to win confirmation. He was decisively rejected, 58 to 42."

Senators Leahy, Schumer, Kennedy and Feingold will ask tough questions. The warrantless NSA wiretapping is on everyone's mind.

A string of Democratic senators, including Mr. Schumer, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Feingold and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, have signaled their intention to question Judge Alito on the spying issue. They will try to draw a link between the program and a 1984 memo in which Judge Alito, then a lawyer for the Reagan administration, argued that the attorney general should be immune from lawsuits for ordering wiretaps without a court order.

"There is no question that the question of executive powers in time of war, in the context of the terrorist threat, will be central to the Alito hearings," Mr. Feingold said, adding, "I would be surprised if it wasn't one of the most important topics."

If he stumbles badly, he'll fall the way of Bork. A second defeat on a Supreme Court nominee would further hurt Bush, Republicans and the evangelical right.

This will be an interesting week, for sure. The Wall St. Journal reports Alito has been prepping since Thanksgiving.

Sen. Chafee of Rhode Island is considered the most likely Republican defector, and Sen. Nelson of Nebraska the likeliest Democratic crossover. In preparation for his confirmation hearings, which start Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Alito has been drilling regularly since Thanksgiving in questioning sessions lasting around 30 minutes at the Justice Department, with two department lawyers doing the questioning. On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the "gang of 14" who sits on Judiciary, joined a so-called moot court session at the White House.

[Graphic exclusive to TalkLeft]

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  • Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#1)
    by Dadler on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 08:32:25 PM EST
    Though I certainly agree his Roe v. Wade position awful, I do think his even worse beliefs in expansive, intrusive, and divisive presidential power the best note for the Dems to hit in his hearings. They should hit it and hit it hard. The abortion card might not even have to be played to any significant extent. Have a dreamy night, J.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#2)
    by Punchy on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 09:43:33 PM EST
    I fail to understand the Dem Senators' reluctance to filibuster this guy. He is as extreme as they get, and it has nothing to do with abortion. This guy was chosen precisely to give the Pres unlimited power (just like Miers, IMO), not to overturn RvW. If they don't attempt a filibuster, then they truly are cowards.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 05:08:34 AM EST
    You're really having fun with the ol' photoshop, huh? :)

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 05:13:27 AM EST
    It is my opinion that the Republican machine (not the constituents, mind you, but the party) has no intention of having Roe overturned. If they did, they would cede their greatest wedge issue to the Democrats and would lose the edge in the exurbs and suburbs for a good long time. Guns and Gays aren't enough in my opinion. Of course Alito is a corporatist's wet dream, as was Meyers, as was Roberts. You guys don't actually think the issues the partys bring up during election and nomination cycles are the ones they are truly interested in? Puleeze.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 06:39:49 AM EST
    I fail to understand the Dem Senators' reluctance to filibuster this guy. Every filibuster should start reluctantly. It's the last option for a minority party.
    ''I haven't made up my mind about how to vote and certainly whether to block him or not. . . . But he's got to answer a lot of questions," Schumer said on NBC's ''Meet the Press."
    The question is, if Dems were to filibuster, would the Repo-men pull the trigger on "the nuclear option?"

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#6)
    by desertswine on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 07:45:22 AM EST
    I am loving the new graphics. Great!

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#7)
    by BigTex on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 08:34:32 AM EST
    Two thoughts. 1) According to Senator Santorum, at a local fundraiser, Alito has between 51-59 votes. That is back to the old majority but not filibustrerproof playingground. Since 2 of the 7 GOP in the deal to avert the nuclear option have indicated they will support the nuclear option if dems attempt to block Alito via filibuster the nuclear option would work, as it stands right now. Now, info at the hearings may change that, but likely the info will have to be info regarding legal qualifications. 2) He's horrible on worker's rights. Consumer protection. The environment. Everything. There's just no way he should be confirmed. Do you (or anyone) have any legal reasoning on why he shouldn't be confirmed? So far the criticism has been political. However, the pieces are set up so that he can't be Borked. When Clinton was in office the GOP didn't make life miserable for the two nominees there. If the Dems filibuster purely on ideological grounds, this will show them to be ideologues, no different that republicans. Any benefit the dems may have gotten from scandal will evaporate with the fight to allow the President to appoint who he chooses. A filibuster on ideological grounds is a disaster waiting to happen.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 08:46:27 AM EST
    It's interesting that pollsters phrase questions to ask whether people would support this nomination if they thought Alito would vote to make abortion illegal. Supreme Court justices do not vote to make things legal or illegal, they rule on existing cases. Overturning Roe would not make abortion illegal. So what case are they talking about?

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#9)
    by Sailor on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 09:12:18 AM EST
    Alito was a member of a racist, mysogynist group in college; alito has already said he'll say anything to get a job; alito has proposed & defended the president as king meme. Tex, that ain't politics, that's a person unfit to be a judge.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#10)
    by aw on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 09:13:44 AM EST
    I wouldn't trust this guy if he swore on a stack of bibles that he wouldn't try to overturn Roe. He already betrayed our trust by not recusing himself from cases in which he had a conflict of interest after he said he would. He either lied or just said the heck with it once he was in.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#11)
    by ras on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:01:41 AM EST
    The Dems know that their args against Alito are specious and do not stand up to inspection. They'll pose a bit for form's sake, but no more than that: i.e. they will bluster, not filibuster. Their supporters will accept this "moral victory" not merely cuz they're used to it (tho that helps), but more cuz even they don't really believe their side's message. If they did, they'd *demand* a fb, but they don't, so they don't.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:31:43 AM EST
    I can't take credit for the graphics. No one becomes that much of an artist, even with Photoshop in one week. A great artist read about my wanting to include graphics on the site and offered to make some exclusively for TalkLeft on issues that I write about. I come up with the ideas, for example, for Alito, I asked if s/he could make one showing him being grilled, sweating, under the lights. S/he wants to remain anonymous for now, and for the first week, didn't even want me to mention the contribution. I've now convinced the artist to allow me to use his/her real initials. Hopefully, in the next several weeks, there will be a graphic for a lot of the most topical issues. I will continue to learn photoshop and cut and paste my own graphics, but you will all be able to tell the difference immediately.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#13)
    by glanton on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:32:16 AM EST
    What difference would it make if Alito's nomination got derailed by a fillibuster? Does anyone on any side of the political spectrum really believe that Bush would say, 'oh. I see now. I'll nominate someone friendly to civil liberties and checks and balances'? Fillibuster in this context achieves nothing. What I am in favor of, though, is a hugely public fight over this nomination; more, I'd like to see the Dems talk incessently about Alito and civil liberties in general, come election time in 2006. But that won't happen. There will be too many red herrings to fight over instead; maybe there'll be another attempt to get an Amendment banning flag burning or gay marriage: something, anything to keep the discussion off balance. And a few more Missing White Females wouldn't hurt. But then, even if it were all out in the open, as it were, I feel pretty sure Americans would vote about the same. The only rights the average voter cares about these days are his own. "I'm having appropriate conversations!" Stay alert, and stay with Fox.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 10:35:08 AM EST
    Please let them know they are doing a lovely job with the artwork. And you, continue to have fun. Also, make certain to challenge yourself to create things that you don't know how to at first; and don't rely on filters. Masks, layers, channels. The pen tool. Mr. Peebles

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#15)
    by Patrick on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:25:41 AM EST
    Nearly 70 percent said they would oppose Judge Alito's nomination if they thought he would vote to make abortion illegal - which it appears he might well do.
    My understanding of the situation is that of the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, then it would be up to the individual states to decide whether or not to outlaw abortion. Some probably would and others would not. So there might be interstate travel to get an abortion, but I highly doubt there'd be a rash of coat hanger or back alley abortions. Does anyone have a different opinion, legal or otherwise as to the effects of the decision being overturned. I think it's just a scare tactic, but would like to hear any rational basis for that statement.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#16)
    by roy on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:52:56 AM EST
    Does anyone have a different opinion, legal or otherwise as to the effects of the decision being overturned.
    Broad, restrictive, federal regulation. Now that intrastate non-trade can be regulated as interstate trade, I don't expect anything to be "up to the individual states" unless it's just too boring to interest the feds. Abortion isn't boring. Those Republican congressmen haven't hit one out of the park in a long time -- they're getting their way on the war, but that's old news -- and they need something big to keep the base happy. They no longer want the small-government base, so they need the nosy family values base. Overturning Roe would give them the authority, they'd use it.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#17)
    by ras on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 11:54:54 AM EST
    Patrick, I think you've about got it right. The irony, of course, is that if abortion becomes a state matter, then abolishing it becomes much more difficult, not less. Given the ease of travel these days, you'd pretty much have to get all 50 states on board, all of them, all the time, aot to a single federal govt. And if this sort of thing catches on, the Left will be clamoring, under just such logic, for Roe to not only be knocked down, but to stay down, too.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#18)
    by Patrick on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 12:02:42 PM EST
    Now that intrastate non-trade can be regulated as interstate trade, I don't expect anything to be "up to the individual states"
    I don't think that was quite the extension of the law you were looking for. But I understand your point.
    Broad, restrictive, federal regulation.
    This will of course be controversial to some, but I have no problem with some restrictions being placed on abortion.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#19)
    by aw on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 01:10:59 PM EST
    If the state can claim it has an interest in what a woman has in her uterus that outweighs her human rights, you might as well kiss your rights to your kidneys goodbye then as well.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#20)
    by Che's Lounge on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 04:21:05 PM EST
    Patrick, We have already seen with medical marijuana that states rights do not protect people from federal persecution. If abortion is made a federal crime it's all over. But there will be no frontal assault on Roe v Wade. Watch the flanks. This guy never met a corporate defendent he didn't side with. He's horrible on worker's rights. Consumer protection. The environment. Everything. There's just no way he should be confirmed. Charlie, Wouldn't it be nice to hear him challenged on those issues? Unfortunately Glanton snaps us back to reality: But that won't happen. There will be too many red herrings to fight over instead It's getting quite predictable, isn't it?

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#21)
    by Patrick on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 04:38:31 PM EST
    Che, I see the vast majority of medical marijuana use in the state of California being unfettered by federal law enforcement. Overturning Roe will not make abortion illegal without some subesquent state and/or federal statute outlawing it, and I don't see that happening.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#22)
    by aw on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 06:11:03 PM EST
    A safe abortion will always be available to women of means whatever state they live in, however advanced the pregnancy. It's the poorer ones that won't be able to get over all the obstacles. Why don't we just acknowledge that?

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#23)
    by Che's Lounge on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 07:43:45 PM EST
    Patrick, I see the vast majority of medical marijuana use in the state of California being unfettered by federal law enforcement. Maybe so. Or not Overturning Roe will not make abortion illegal without some subesquent state and/or federal statute outlawing it, and I don't see that happening.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#24)
    by Che's Lounge on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 07:51:10 PM EST
    Sorry, hit the post too soon. Patrick, I don't see an out and out law against abortion coming out of congress. But there can be hidden legislation, or technical legal decisions that could be made by the SC that would slowly criminalize the activities surrounding the procedure. You might call it the "Sudaphed" strategy. Don't criminalize the procedure, but slam anyone who uses a medical suction device for the purpose of yada, yada, yada. Get my point?

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#25)
    by Patrick on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 08:04:52 PM EST
    Che, San Diego is the county suing California over prop 215, so using them is not quite a fair representation in my opinion. There are 57 other counties, such as Mendocino, and Sonoma in my meck of the woods which swing the exact opposite way. I didn't say all, I said most. As for the rest of your post, I think pro-choice and pro-abortion groups have enough power to stifle any such legislation. I already said a little regulation may not be a bad thing. So we disagree. That's cool by me.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#26)
    by Che's Lounge on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 08:41:00 AM EST
    Patrick, Agreed to disagree. But I wanted others to see that it's not all rosy here in the red enclave of a blue state. The SD City Council is not representing the people of SD county, who approved Prop 215 by 70%.

    Re: Alito Confirmation Hearings to Begin (none / 0) (#27)
    by Che's Lounge on Tue Jan 10, 2006 at 08:41:47 AM EST
    TL, Sorry to go OT. No mas.