Capitol Hill Reaction to the Alito Nomination

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Steve Inskeep talks with White House correspondent David Greene about reaction on Capitol Hill to the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

All this morning, we've been tracking President Bush's latest Supreme Court nomination. Judge Samuel Alito has a long legal career and is currently serving on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in the eastern US. President Bush named him this morning.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: He has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions. His record reveals a thoughtful judge who considers the legal merits carefully and applies the law in a principled fashion. He has a deep understanding of the proper role of judges in our society. He understands that judges are to interpret the laws, not to impose their preferences or priorities.

INSKEEP: President Bush says he wants a confirmation vote by the end of this year, although our correspondent Nina Totenberg tells us that the way the Senate usually operates, that would be difficult. One of the key players in the process will be Senator Arlen Specter. He's the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee which takes up the nomination first. Specter acknowledged this morning that Alito's confirmation would likely be dominated by explosive issues including abortion.

Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania; Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee): There's a lot more to the issue of a woman's right to choose and how you may feel about it personally. You may be sure that that'll be among the first items that Judge Alito and I will discuss, although I'm not going to ask him how he's going to rule in any case.

INSKEEP: Specter will be interested what respect Alito gives to precedence that the Supreme Court has held in the past on the subject of abortion.

Now on the Democratic side, Senator Charles Schumer, who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, is already questioning the nominee's legal values.

Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York; Senate Judiciary Committee): A preliminary review of his record raises real questions about Judge Alito's judicial philosophy and his commitment to civil rights, workers' right, women's rights, the rights of average Americans which the courts have always looked out for.

INSKEEP: Now we have no word yet on when Judge Samuel Alito's Senate confirmation hearings will begin, although some lawmakers have mentioned December. It is in those hearings that Judge Alito will have his main opportunity to make his case. Until then, interest groups, lawmakers and reporters will be scrutinizing the same pile of paper that is cited as Judge Samuel Alito's chief qualification for the job: his long record as a federal judge.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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