Kerry’s Senate floor speech from today:

“I am proud to join my friend, the senior Senator from Massachusetts, in taking a stand against this nomination. I know it is an uphill battle. I have heard many of my colleagues. I hear the arguments: Reserve your gunpowder for the future. What is the future if it changes so dramatically at this moment in time? What happens to those people who count on us to stand up and protect them now, not later, not at some future time?

“This is the choice for the Court now. I reject those notions that there ought to somehow be some political calculus about the future. This impact is going to be now. This choice is now. This ideological direction is defined now.”

Please sign his filibuster petition.  And call Salazar NOW – he is taking a filibuster poll. Apparently, Ben Nelson is soliciting feedback as well. I just called Nelson’s office and spoke with a delightful fellow who didn’t even care that I’m out of state because he’s from here! : p

I told him that extending debate on Alito’s nomination is entirely appropriate given Alito’s deference to presidential power in light of spygate. There is no reason not to put Alito’s nomination off until we have some answeres on extralegal domestic surveillance.

Word has it that Reid said he doesn’t have the votes for a filibuster, but that was apparently before Hillary and Feinstein got on board.  I will post more on that when I have it.

And now it appears that Bayh and Bill Nelson are also in the mix. What a day this has been!

Update [2006-1-27 20:19:33 by Cedwyn]: It seems Cantwell needs some prodding. Other Senators who may be on the fence hereUpdate [2006-1-27 20:58:44 by Cedwyn]: apparently, this includes Obama and Harkin.

Meanwhile, we need to get the word out publically in every way possible – people need to understand what they’d be getting in Alito and why a filibuster is warranted.  

Here are some resources for LTE’s, etc.:

a democratic staffer !@#$%& gets it!

Anti-Alito Brigade for Justice round-up

and don’t forget the wisdom of Mark Crispin Miller:

A no vote is a yes vote, unless you filibuster!

Below the fold is my letter to Smith, typos and all.  If any of it is useful, please help yourself.  I chose the example of the Arctic Refuge because Smith actually stood up for that; tailor examples to your Stepford Senators’ pet causes.  Or other issues that you know are important locally.

Dear Senator Smith and staff:

I have abiding concerns regarding the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.  Few, if any of them were allayed by watching the Senate debate today.  

In all honesty, the Senate should not even be considering his nomination right now – the investigation into Bush’s NSA extralegal spying directive is far more important.  It starkly calls Alito’s fitness for the nation’s highest court into question, given his previous support of such increased executive branch powers.  

For example, would Alito concur with the administration’s claim that the AUMF permits domestic surveillance, even though the Senate explicitly denied Bush that capability?  Would he support the notion that Bush can ignore FISA because he is CinC?

His past encouragement of wiretapping is disturbing in this regard, as is his endorsement of executive “signing statements.”  Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the president shall interpret laws sent to him by Congress, but Bush has used these statements to not only evaluate laws, but decide that he can ignore laws, based on these interpretations.  The Constitution is also explicit in that even the president must obey the law – I’m not sure Alito can be counted upon to uphold that.

It is in this context that an imagined deference to the executive regarding nominees is so troubling – why should the co-equal branch of government tasked with evaluating nominees need to “defer” to the executive branch?  The Constitution is very explicit on this:  the executive appoints justices with the Senate’s oversight and agreement.  It does not say the Senate has to agree.

There is no reason the Senate needs defer to the executive whatsoever.  He certainly didn’t afford the Senate the courtesy of consulting with them or seeking their advice on this nomination; if he had, I’m sure the Miers debacle would never have happened.

At least he consulted on the second try, but instead of the Senate, he solicited feedback from his Chief of Staff, White House Counsel, and prominent members of the religious right.  Where in the constitution does it assign those people the role to advise on judicial nominees?  

Samuel Alito, in his support of the “unitary executive” theory, is a threat to Congress’ role as an equal branch of a tripartate government.  There are already two lawsuits resulting from the NSA wiretaps; what would Alito’s opinion be if they went before the Supreme Court?  We can’t know for sure, but his past record indicates that he would be in favor of broader governmental power.

What happens when Bush starts ignoring other laws of inconvenience?  Or decides to invoke the CinC “national security” excuse to drill in the Arctic Refuge without explicit consent from Congress?  Establishing this precedent in the executive branch is extraordinarily dangerous – I do believe Alito would help set such a precedent.

His nomination is especially critical given that he will be replacing the very centrist Sandra Day O’ Connor.  Not everybody in the country thinks like Scalia and Thomas and the Supreme Court should reflect a comparable balance of ideology.  Some would argue that justices are not elected officials and therefore SCOTUS doesn’t need to encompass a variety of beliefs as society does.  But justices are appointed by elected officials and approved by elected officials.  As the popular reminder goes, “elections have consequences.”

In this sense, the resulting judicial appointments should take the national character into account – the federal government represents ALL citizens, not just those of the party currently in charge.  As such, the composition of the nation’s highest court should be seated with people of varying perspectives and viewpoints, to ensure balance in our justice system.  Protecting the voice and rights of the minority were of paramount importance to our founding fathers – they knew well the dangers of one-party rule.

I was also dismayed at the assertion that being “qualified” is the only valid criterion for evaluating justices.  If that is the case, why waste the president’s and the Senate’s time with nominations, debates and voting on confirmation?  “Qualified” is a fairly objective measure and one that made many justices suitable choices for this appointment.

If ideology plays no role in the fitness of a justice, why not insist on an equally qualified, yet more moderate nominee?  If ideology means nothing in this, why are religious right groups ecstatic over this nomination?  

I simply cannot put in strong enough terms how completely inappropriate Alito is for our Supreme Court at this time.  I know you have come out in support of the nomination, but I am urging you to reconsider and insist on a nominee that respects the primacy of Congress’ role in our government.  Encouraging the development of a strong unitary executive by appointing supportive justices to SCOTUS could well mean dispensing with “advice and consent of the Senate” altogether.

Very sincerely,

an unhappy constituent

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