Alito Hearings: Thursday's Audio Highlights

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito walks away from his table

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito walks away from his table after four days of public testimony in his Senate confirmation hearings, Jan. 12, 2006. Alito completed his testimony Thursday. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito fielded questions almost exclusively from Democrats during his final day of public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Alito was pressed on right-to-die and death penalty cases, the limits of presidential authority and other issues, but rarely gave more than general answers that avoided his personal views.

PRESIDENTIAL POWER

As they have throughout the hearings, Democrats peppered Alito with questions about the reach of presidential authority. Alito said that the extent of the president's power to authorize the use of military force without congressional authority isn't settled. Other questions probed the legality of the warrantless domestic-surveillance program authorized by President Bush.

COMPARISONS TO O'CONNOR

Democrats have repeatedly asked whether Alito would follow in the mold of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he would replace if confirmed. O'Connor has provided the decisive vote in many momentous rulings. Democrats contend that Alito would take the court in a more conservative direction.

END-OF-LIFE ISSUES

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) brought up the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who was at the center of a long battle between her husband and family over whether she should be allowed to die. The debate was taken up by Congress and the courts. Leahy asked Alito whether a patient's wishes should guide decisions on medical treatment.

SCHUMER WEIGHS IN

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that Alito had failed to dissociate himself from statements made while he was a Reagan administration lawyer in the 1980s that opposed abortion rights and the one-person, one-vote reapportionment principle. Schumer's statement left little doubt that he plans to oppose Alito's nomination.

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