I am a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate from Maryland and to date the only candidate in our state to go on the record in opposition to the seating of Samuel Alito on the U. S. Supreme Court. See the statement posted last Monday on my home page: Allan Lichtman for Senate.
Based on the record, Alito ought not to be making the constitutional decisions that will shape the next half century of American life.
In evaluating Supreme Court nominees the message is in the record, not the rhetoric. Since the Senate rejected the combative conservative Robert Bork in 1987, nominees have become schooled in appearing inoffensive in Senate hearings, regardless of how they intend to operate as a Justice. Clarence Thomas’s moderate pose, for example, gained him the Democratic swing votes needed for a narrow confirmation victory. Once installed as a Justice, Thomas reverted to his history of conservative activism, anchoring the far right of the Rehnquist Court.
Samuel Alito’s record of memos and opinions demonstrates that he poses a clear and present danger both to women’s rights and to broader liberties threatened by a president who recognizes no legal checks on his power. No matter how temperate Alito may appear in upcoming hearings, Senators should focus on his record and exercise their constitutional option to withhold their consent from this nominee.
Memos from the Reagan era and Alito’s dissent as a Appeals Court Judge in the landmark case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, indicate that at best he would vote to chip away a woman’s right to choose safe and legal abortions and at worst would push to overturn Roe v. Wade. His record further indicates his lack of sympathy for affirmative action, women’s rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and laws prohibiting gender-based discrimination in education and employment.
Alito’s assertion of absolute immunity for federal officials engaged in illegal wiretapping, his denunciation of the Independent Counsel law as a ”congressional pilfering” of presidential power, his call for a presidential interpretation of the congressional intent of legislation, his approval of strip searches without a warrant (Doe v. Groody), and additional dissenting opinions upholding expansive police powers indicate that would likely sustain claims of presidential power to spy on and harass Americans. Simultaneously, other opinions indicate that he would restrict federal power to protect our environment, advance civil rights, and defend people’s health and safety.
If Democrats stick together, they can defeat this nomination just as they defeated efforts to enact the Bush-backed version of the U.S.A. Patriot Act with its restrictions on our civil liberties. No option — including a filibuster — ought to be taken off the table.
The juxtaposition of the Alito nomination and the Patriot Act struggle shows the need for Democratic Senators of principle and backbone. My Senate opponent in Maryland, sitting Congressman Ben Cardin, voted for the Bush-backed version of the Patriot Act. Fortunately, Maryland’s Senators Mikulski and Sarbanes, joined by 95 percent of Senate Democrats and four courageous Republicans stopped the Act cold in the Senate. Maryland and America afford Cardin’s approach of compromising at all costs with the Bush administration.