by Steven Ertelt
January 9, 2006
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — As expected, opening statements in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court focused on the contentious issue of abortion. Sen. Arlen Specter, the chairman of the committee, wasted no time in setting the tone for the statements.
"Perhaps the dominant issue is the widespread concern about Judge Alito’s position on a woman’s right to choose," he said.
Specter said part of the focus on abortion results from two 1985 memos Alito wrote during his tenure in the Reagan administration saying he did not think that there is a right to abortion in the Constitution.
"This hearing will give Judge Alito the public forum to address the issue, as he has with Senators in private meetings, that his personal views and prior advocacy will not determine his judicial decision," Specter said.
Other members of the committee were more pointed in their comments.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a leading abortion advocate on the committee, called Judge Alito’s "quite extreme" and, referring to pro-life groups, he claimed President Bush nominated Alito to placate the "placate the extreme right wing."
"We will ask you: ‘Do you still "personally believe very strongly that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," Schumer told Alito during the hearing.
Schumer said he would ask Alito whether he would advance the goal on the high court of overturning the landmark decision backing abortion.
But pro-life Sen. John Cornyn told Alito that he can expect some pro-abortion lawmakers to oppose his bid for the high court regardless of his answers.
"I am reluctantly inclined to the view that you and any other nominee of this president for the Supreme Court start with no more than 13 votes in this committee, and only 78 votes in the full Senate with a solid, immovable and unpersuadable block of at least 22 votes against you, no matter what you say or do," he explained.
Other pro-abortion Democrats on the committee expressed their concerns about Alito’s abortion views.
"Your record raises troubling questions," Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said. Sen. Edward Kennedy called Aito’s record "genuinely troubling" and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said Alito would be a "very key and decisive vote."
But Republican members of the committee supported Alito and his judicial temperament.
"Your modest approach to judging seems to bode well for our democracy," pro-life Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio countered.
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, added that Alito "has a reputation for being an exceptional and honest judge devoted to the rule of law, and a man of integrity" and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama called the nominee "a brilliant but modest jurist."
Ultimately, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah urged members of the committee to "apply a judicial, not a political, standard to this record."
Democrats on the committee also said they would question Alito harshly on the issue of abortion because he would replace retiring pro-abortion Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who was the deciding vote on the issue of partial-birth abortion and is one of six justices who favor Roe v. Wade.
Specter has called for a full committee vote on January 17, after a week of hearings and time for reflection, but Senate Democrats have indicated they may call for a week’s delay.