Momentum is shifting on the Alito nomination. Senator Schumer’s aggressive questioning Tuesday evening reflected Democrat’s growing frustration with Alito’s inconsistent and inadequate answers, and yesterday several senators refused to let him get away with stonewalling.
At a news conference yesterday, they vowed “to keep digging until we get some answers.”
Ralph G. Neas
In this Special Issue:
1. Is Roe “settled law”?
2. Does Alito understand the “crushing hand of fate”?
3. Why can’t Alito give a credible explanation for his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton?
IN FOCUS: The Hearings So Far
Is Roe “Settled Law”?
Alito’s refusal to answer Senator Schumer’s straight-forward question Tuesday about whether he still believed, as he wrote in 1985, that the “Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion” clearly angered several Democratic Committee members. Yesterday, Senator Durbin tried a different approach to discover Alito’s views on reproductive freedom, but with no more success.
Senator Durbin asked Alito to tell the Judiciary Committee whether he considered Roe vs. Wade to be “settled law.” John Roberts answered this question during his hearing, but Alito, amazingly, would not even match the low standard set by the Chief Justice. When Senator Durbin refused to accept Alito’s empty tributes to stare decisis, Alito took refuge in semantics: his answer depends on what “‘settled’ means.”
Later in the day, Senator Feinstein took issue with Alito’s excuse for not answering Senators Durbin’s and Schumer’s questions — that cases concerning Roe might come before the court. “[T]here are four cases pending in the court right now on one man, one vote,” she pointed out, yet “you were willing to give your view on one man, one vote.”
Does Alito Understand the “Crushing Hand of Fate”?
Will “the average person, the dispossessed person, the poor person,” asked Senator Durbin, “be subject to the ‘crushing hand of fate'” if they come before a Supreme Court with a Justice Alito? Senator Durbin noted a “recurring pattern” in Alito’s decisions where he sided with powerful corporations and the government against individuals who were forced to turn to the courts for protection. Several independent studies of Alito’s record have confirmed that he overwhelmingly rules against such individuals.
One case concerned Kevin Pirolli, a young developmentally disabled man who presented evidence that he was the victim of horrific sexual harassment. In a vigorous dissent, Alito argued that he should not even have the opportunity to present his case to a jury because “his lawyer had not adequately provided citations in his brief to places in the record describing his harassment.”
Another case has particular resonance today. Alito sided with a coal company that went to court because it had been cited by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission for violating federal mine safety law. Alito dissented from the majority ruling that held the Commission had the power to protect workers at the coal processing site, arguing that the facility did not fit the technical definition of a “mine.”
“In many of these tough questions,” Senator Durbin concluded from Alito’s record, “you end up ruling in favor of established institutions and against individuals.”
Why can’t Alito give a credible explanation for his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton?
Senator Kennedy was so dissatisfied with Alito’s answers to questions about having touted his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP), which vehemently resisted growing university admissions of women and minorities, that he threatened to call for a subpoena of withheld records at the Library of Congress.
Senator Kennedy cited examples of the reactionary views that had made the organization notorious at Princeton and in the national press and raise credibility concerns about Alito’s claims that he now doesn’t remember.
Not long before Alito bragged about his CAP membership in his now-infamous 1985 job application, the group’s magazine published an essay that began, “People nowadays just don’t seem to know their place.Å Everywhere one turns blacks and Hispanics are demanding jobs Å the physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports, and homosexuals are demanding that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children.” In 1984, CAP’s magazine wrote “scientists must find humans, or rather homosexuals, to submit themselves to experimental treatment [for AIDS].”
Alito, who has claimed not to remember joining the group, is adamant that he would not have done so “because of any attitude toward women and minorities,” but he said he probably did so because of anger at ROTC’s expulsion from Princeto
campus during the Vietnam War. When he recycled this explanation to Senator Durbin, the Senator objected, “Do women and minorities have anything to do with” controversy over ROTC?