Alito Hearings: Wednesday's Audio Highlights

leahy and kennedy

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) points to Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito as Sen. Patrick Leahy (L) looks on, Jan. 11, 2006. Kennedy aggressively challenged Alito on his membership in a Princeton alumni group that promoted discriminatory views. Joshua Roberts/Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Democratic senators continued aggressive questioning of Judge Samuel Alito during the third day of Senate hearings on his nomination to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Republicans on the panel ratcheted up their defense of the nominee.

ABORTION

Democrats continued to press Alito for a direct answer on whether Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, is settled law. Alito pointed to the large body of case law that has developed in the years since that reaffirms Roe, but did not say whether he would uphold the precedent. Meanwhile, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), a vocal abortion foe, questioned Alito on instances when the Supreme Court was correct in reversing itself on long-standing precedent.

EXECUTIVE POWER

Alito faced a second day of questioning on the extent of the power of the executive branch. Alito said that the president did not have the power to order the FBI or other intelligence agencies to violate the Constitution.

CONCERNED ALUMNI OF PRINCETON

Democrats returned to the issue of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton. Alito listed himself as a member of the group in a 1985 job application. But he has told the committee that he does not recall his membership and that he disavows its stated hostility to women and minority students at Princeton. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) raised the ire of Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) when he proposed that the committee subpoena the group's records.

FAIRNESS IN THE COURT

Democrats have repeatedly suggested that Alito has a record of ruling against "the little guy" in favor of government interests. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) challenged Alito on his dissent in the 2001 case Riley v. Taylor, in which an African-American death row inmate argued that the prosecution improperly challenged black jurors. Durbin said he was "troubled" by Alito's dismissal of the role of race in the case.

FOREIGN LAW

In several recent cases, the Supreme Court has cited foreign law in interpreting the Constitution. Alito said he did not think this practice is "appropriate or useful."

ETHICAL CONCERNS

Alito has defended his initial failure to step out of a 2002 appeal involving Vanguard, a company with which he has investments. Democrats have accused Alito of breaking a promise he made to the Judiciary Committee during his 1990 confirmation hearings for the federal appeals court that he would remove himself from cases that present a conflict of interest.

DEATH PENALTY

If confirmed, Alito would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a swing vote on death penalty cases during her 25 years on the court.

RELIGION

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) addresses religion for the first time in the hearings. He asks about Alito's personal moral and religious views and how these would affect his decision-making on the Supreme Court.

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