Kennedy: Alito 'Should Not Be Entrusted'

Below are some excerpts from Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D.-Mass.) floor statement during the Alito debate going on in the Senate today:

  • Contrary to what a number of my Republican colleagues have argued, the Senate’s role is not limited to ensuring that the nominee is ethical and possesses a certain level of legal skill and professional experience. To end the inquiry there would be a shameful abdication of our historic responsibility.

The selection of a Supreme Court Justice is of great importance to every man and woman in America because the decisions rendered by the Court affect their lives every day.

  • For the Senate to become a "rubber stamp" for the judicial nominees of any President would be a betrayal of our sworn duty to the American people. Taking our responsibility seriously — and doing the job we were sent here to do — is not being "partisan," as some Republicans have charged. 

In fact, it is those Republicans who are being partisan by defending a nominee’s right to remain silent when Senators ask him highly relevant questions about his constitutional values. To ask a nominee for a candid statement of his current belief about what a provision of the Constitution means is not asking for a guarantee of how he will rule in the future.

It is every bit as appropriate as reading a law review article or a case he wrote last year or a speech he gave as a judge. Unfortunately, on issue after issue, instead of answering candidly, Judge Alito merely recited the existing case law but never disclosed his view of major constitutional issues. That is a disservice to the American people, and Senators on both sides of the aisle should find his evasiveness unacceptable. The confirmation process should not be reduced to a game of hide the ball. The stakes for our country are too high.

In conclusion Kennedy said:

  • We have an independent duty to evaluate Supreme Court nominees to determine whether their confirmation is in the best interests of our nation. That is the test.

It’s a test with which Judge Alito himself seems to agree. He said that we should look at his record and decide whether he should be confirmed. I have done so. But I have compared the challenges the Court will face in the future with Judge Alito’s record, and I cannot support his nomination.

In this new century, the Court will undoubtedly consider sweeping new claims to expand executive power at the expense of core individual rights – including detention of Americans on American soil without access to counsel or the court, and eavesdropping on Americans in violation of federal law. The Court will decide new issues in America’s struggle against prejudice and discrimination. And it must remain a fair and impartial decision-maker for ordinary Americans seeking justice.

Judge Alito’s record shows that he should not be entrusted with these vital decisions facing our nation’s highest court. I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing Judge Alito’s nomination.