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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Shame on you, senators”

    Micheal HustonColumnist
    Micheal Huston
    Columnist

    Two weeks ago, the U.S. Senate confirmed Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court by a vote of 58-42. Alito’s nomination to the court came after 25 Democratic senators launched an unsuccessful effort to embarrass themselves, the Senate and our constitutional process.

    The paltry and foolish effort to filibuster Alito’s confirmation was led by none other than former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and fellow Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.

    Calling the unsuccessful filibuster a “”fight over principle,”” Kerry ignored the obvious fact that the founders of our nation never intended for senators to oppose judicial nominees by stalling on the Senate floor and refusing to cast votes simply because they lack a majority.

    Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who was also involved in the attempted filibuster, said after it failed that she “”was pleased with the effort”” because the Supreme Court is “”the people’s court.””

    Ironically, it is the fact that the Supreme Court is the people’s court that makes the actions of these senators so reprehensible. The Constitution proscribes a specific role for the Senate in the appointment of judges to the federal judiciary, which is to “”advise and consent.””

    Senators must examine the record and background of a nominee to decide whether he is of sufficient character and intellect, then issue their recommendation in the form of a supportive or unsupportive vote. It is the people’s Constitution that requires such actions from the senators.

    During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s review of his nomination, it was made abundantly clear that Alito is intelligent and possesses a thorough understanding of constitutional law.

    In addition, although senators opposed to Alito tried in vain to show that his character was less than impeccable, polls indicated that a vast majority of Americans were convinced that judge Alito was worthy of a seat on the nation’s highest court.

    Given a strong nominee who was clearly deserving of confirmation, one is led to wonder why such a substantial bloc of senators, almost exclusively from one party, decided to vote against him.

    The most likely reason that 42 senators felt it necessary to vote against Alito in spite of his outstanding credentials was their desire to appease the liberal special interest groups that donate to their campaigns and were opposed to the nomination.

    Among the special interest groups opposed to Alito was Planned Parenthood, which denounced the nomination just hours after it was announced. Planned Parenthood and other groups asserted for weeks that the confirmation of Alito would bring a swift end to abortion rights for women.

    Then again, liberal special interests haven’t always been the best judges of how a justice will vote once confirmed.

    Consider the case of David Souter, whose nomination by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 was opposed by Planned Parenthood on the grounds that he would immediately end women’s right to abortion.

    Sound familiar?

    The founders of our nation never intended for senators to oppose judicial nominees by stalling on the Senate floor.

    On the last day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on Alito, Chairman Arlen Specter produced a flier from 15 years ago that called for a filibuster of Souter’s nomination. Specter then showed a nearly identical flier, different only in that the name of the judge had been changed to “”Alito.””

    Souter has since spent his time on the high court as a faithful defender of the right to abortion, proving that the public should not take the wild fears of liberal groups regarding judicial appointments on their face.

    Ultimately, it seems likely that liberal special interest groups based their opposition to Alito and other nominees on fears that they had trouble articulating, and that history has not substantiated.

    Then again, those justifications were obviously good enough for at least a few dozen senators to vote their politics instead of their consciences.

    Michael Huston is junior majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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