As anyone who has been viewing the Supreme Court nomination hearing of Samuel Alito, Jr. has had opportunity to witness, each and every Democrat member of the Senate Judiciary Committee has praised retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as a “model.” In other words, a model that Judge Alito is being measured against during these hearings — a litmus test, after a fashion — and a model which some Senate Democrats appear to believe he should emulate.
However, should Justice O’Connor be nominated today, she would likely receive few votes from those same Democrats. Justice O’Connor’s votes and opinions during her time on the Supreme Court would draw the ire of the committee members who have praised her, just as similar rulings by Judge Alito have since he was nominated. A few examples aptly demonstrate this point:
Should these aforementioned cases be available as part of her available legal work, and should Justice O’Connor be required to answer questions about these cases in front of today’s Senate Judiciary Committee, it is likely she would face just as rigorous a process as Judge Alito.
And while some Senate Democrats will insist on asking Judge Alito to prejudge cases and issues in an effort to see how he may fit this model they praise, the American people should recognize such inquiry for what it is: an attempt to politicize the process, and to badger him to reveal personal feelings about the issues.
This line of inquiry is unfair to the nominee, the American people, and grossly distorts the Senate’s role of providing advice and consent — nominees should not be asked to make promises to politicians as a condition of confirmation.
Instead, the American people may rest assured that I and other of my colleagues are determined to responsibly conduct these hearings to fully investigate Judge Alito, to ensure, through careful review and thoughtful questioning, that he is well qualified and has the intellect, character, common sense, and judicial temperament to perform this job, to facilitate full and thorough and consideration, and to conduct a timely up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.