Black Caucus Calls for Meeting with Alito

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The Congressional Black Caucus has asked to meet with Supreme Court Nominee Samuel Alito, but Alito has not responded to the request. Ed Gordon talks to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino about the request.

ED GORDON, host:

From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Ed Gordon.

The Congressional Black Caucus has come out against the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, a move they say will jeopardize civil rights. CBC members are lobbying a bipartisan group of senators who could hold Alito's confirmation in their hands. Those 14 senators, known as the Gang of 14, signed a pact in May that a judicial nominee would be filibustered only under extraordinary circumstances. Last week the CBC issued individual letters to all of the senators expressing concern over Alito's past rulings, particularly in regards to discrimination cases. The CBC requested a meeting with Alito in early December. They have yet to hear from his office. We'll hear from the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman Mel Watt of North Carolina, in just a moment.

But first we speak with Dana Perino, deputy press secretary for the Bush administration. She told me that the CBC was premature in their feeling snubbed.

Ms. DANA PERINO (Deputy Press Secretary, Bush Administration): The Congressional Black Congress, unfortunately, announced their opposition to Judge Alito before an answer was even provided on Judge Alito's schedule.

GORDON: Do you feel that it is, A, appropriate for the judge to meet with a group that has some concerns, and would the White House, in fact, suggest that Judge Alito do so?

Ms. PERINO: Well, now that they've already announced their opposition, it's almost curious as to why they would want to meet. Judicial nominees typically meet with senators, not House members. John Roberts met with only senators in spite of many requests from House members, but, however, as I mentioned, you know, the opposition to Judge Alito was announced prior, before we were able to nail down his schedule and provide an answer. But I think it's important--is that we have to remember the hearings don't start even till January 9th. The Congressional Black Caucus also announced their opposition to Judge Roberts, now the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, prior to his hearings.

GORDON: Do you believe that the White House could, in fact, make special conditions here? Even though the Congressional Black Congress has announced its opposition, one can go back and change their philosophy and thought. If, in fact, the meeting is held the president suggested he wanted to reach out to African-Americans and show that this White House, in fact, had their issues paramount on their agenda. Is there a possibility of that happening?

Ms. PERINO: I'm not aware of a request for a meeting since they announced the opposition. I would also point out, however, it's encouraging that in--for those interested in the latest polling information, today in The Washington Post, 54 percent of Americans believe Judge Alito should be confirmed to the Supreme Court, and that's even before his hearing. It is the United States Senate who votes on the president's nominees, and we look forward to having him having an up or down vote and being confirmed by January 20th.

GORDON: That was White House press secretary Dana Perino.

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