Leahy Lays Groundwork for 'No' Vote

Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, appears to be setting the stage for a “no” vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Yesterday he criticized Alito about his 1984 wiretap memo.

Leahy surprised Republicans, and especially Democrats, when he voted for the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts in September. But that vote was largely viewed at time time as an attempt to appear moderate, and give him and others who joined him more leverage with the next nominee.

Now that Alito is gaining momentum for confirmation, Leahy sending clearer signals about his dislike, and probable opposition, for Alito. Here’s Leahy’s statement:

“These new documents fill in more blanks and deepen the impression of activism that colors Judge Alito’s career. They also touch on issues that already are of great interest to the committee in the upcoming hearings. One of the most important, and one of the most timely, is the issue of unchecked presidential authority and the particular issue of warrantless eavesdropping on the American people.

“The judges in our independent judiciary are our system’s most crucial check and balance against abuses and excesses by the President and the rest of the government in wielding power. Accountability, and even our basic rights, are lost if our courts fail in this role. These documents raise further questions about Judge Alito’s views on and commitment to this vital role of the judicial branch as a check on Executive authority.

“Chairman Specter and I and other members of the committee have informed Judge Alito, by letter and otherwise, that issues relating to Executive authority and checks and balances are areas of deep concern that we will bring to these hearings, and Judge Alito’s answers will be in vitally important in evaluating his suitability to serve on our nation’s highest court.”