Democrat Sen. Kennedy on Alito
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
We're going to hear from two senators on the Judiciary Committee who will be taking up the Alito nomination. First, Senator Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.
Thanks for being with us.
Senator EDWARD KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): Delighted to be here.
BLOCK: Senator, you've talked about Samuel Alito's troubling record. What is it about his record that troubles you?
Sen. KENNEDY: Well, first of all, I think rather than selecting a nominee for the good of the nation and the court, the president has picked a nominee who he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support in his right wing. This is a nomination based on weakness, not on strength. The American people, after the Miers nomination, were entitled to someone that was going to bring the country together, and that opportunity has been missed. What we have to do is have a thorough and complete hearing, which we will. We have to get into considerable detail into his years on the court. And we'll have the hearings to be able to do that. The groups that have a number of very serious concerns that they have with regards with women's issues, with regards to a number of other workers issues, environmental issues and civil rights issues, have already taken their positions in opposition. We will wait till the hearings.
BLOCK: But when you say that he has a troubling record, which issues in particular are they that he's taken up in his years on the bench that you find puzzling or problematic?
Sen. KENNEDY: Well, I mean, first of all, his finding that the Congress does not have the right to pass family and medical leave. We made a judgment that this was something that was enormously important for working families, particularly for women in our society. And when we have a judge that strikes that down, that says the Congress doesn't have the authority and the power and hasn't built a record for that, I find that troublesome.
When they say, as he did in 1996, that the Congress does not have the right to regulate machine guns in our streets, to make them safer, that the Congress doesn't have that authority and the power, that's troublesome to me.
There's an issue in a case which he decided in 2001 which was a question about blacks on a jury which is enormously distressing, where they knocked out all the blacks on a jury. And he didn't--he said that he was following the state constitution and he didn't find that troublesome.
He's had decisions with regards to women's issues: notification on the questions on the Roe issue as well. We'll have an opportunity to get into these, but they certainly--these issues are very, very important.
BLOCK: Senator, I imagine you're aware that the Republican National Committee is circulating some remarks that you made back in 1990 before the Judiciary Committee about Samuel Alito, basically saying you were singing a different tune then, saying that he had a very distinguished record. `I certainly commend you for long service in the public interest.' What's changed in the last 15 years?
Sen. KENNEDY: Well, that's, of course, an entirely different time, isn't it? We were talking about his service at that time as a US attorney having served in the Justice Department or the Office of Legal Counsel. And we have had 15 years since that time as a jurist to consider. And I want to make sure that we're not going to have a nominee that's going to bring us back on the progress that we've made over the last 50 years. That's certain--that, I think, is really the test.
BLOCK: Is a filibuster a possibility with Samuel Alito's nomination?
Sen. KENNEDY: I don't rule anything in or anything out. What we're focused in on now is preparation for the hearings, and we can make any judgments in the future. I think we ought to have a full, fair hearing; he's entitled to that. And we'll make our judgments further down the road.
BLOCK: Senator Kennedy, thanks very much.
Sen. KENNEDY: Thanks very much. Bye-bye.
BLOCK: That's Senator Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.