Many people seem curious or even skeptical why United States Senators believe it’s so important to take a stand against the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court — why we’re willing to take on a fight that conventional wisdom suggests we will lose.
The reality is simple. We care about the future of our country. We care about the millions of Americans who expect Congress to stand up and fight for their rights and their freedoms, and we also know that the Supreme Court, again and again, is the battlefield on which those rights and freedoms are decided.
So let’s get this straight. The time to fight is now – before we make the irreversible decision of confirming a new Supreme Court Justice. When you’re talking about the Supreme Court, you don’t live to fight another day. It’s a zero sum game. Once Judge Alito becomes Justice Alito, there’s no turning back the Senate confirmation vote. We don’t get to ‘take a mulligan’ when choosing a Supreme Court Justice. The direction our country takes for the next thirty years is being set now. Will it matter if we speak up after the Supreme Court has granted the executive the right to use torture, or to eavesdrop without warrants? Will it matter if we speak up only after a woman’s right to privacy has been taken away? Will history record what we say after the courthouse door is slammed in the faces of women, minorities, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor? No. History will record what we say and what we do now.
What on earth are we waiting for? We all know why President Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. He is packing the court with conservative ideologues who will extend the legacy of his presidency for years to come. After all, Judge Alito was nominated only after extreme members of the right-wing killed the nomination of Harriet Miers, an accomplished lawyer who ideologues fumed lacked a track record of proven, tested, activist conservatism. Those same individuals heralded Judge Alito’s nomination. Ann Coulter, who last week suggested Justice Stevens should be poisoned, who denounced the nomination of John Roberts, celebrated Judge Alito’s nomination, stating that Bush gave Democrats ‘a right-hook’ – high praise from an activist who said that Republicans need to nominate a person who ‘wake[s] up every morning . . . chortling about how much his latest opinion will tick off the left.’
After reviewing Judge Alito’s writings as a Department of Justice lawyer and a federal judge, I have no doubt why he is so heralded by the most extreme Republicans. There is no doubt about the kind of Justice Samuel Alito will be. He will make it harder for the most disadvantaged members of our society to have their day in court. He will allow the President’s power to grow far beyond what the Framers of the Constitution intended. He will roll back women’s privacy rights. Empty promises made in the heat of a highly-charged and exceedingly political confirmation battle cannot erase a twenty year record.
No one will be able to say, in five to ten years, that they are surprised by the decisions Judge Alito makes from the bench. They know that in his fifteen years on the Third Circuit, Judge Alito has almost never voted in favor of African-American plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases. They know that he routinely defers to government invasions into personal privacy, often going out of his way to excuse unlawful government actions. And they know that the only statement he has ever made regarding a woman’s right to privacy is that she does not have one.
People who believe in privacy rights, who fight for the rights of the most disadvantaged, who believe in balancing the power between the President and Congress have no choice but to stand up against Judge Alito.
I know better than anyone that elections have consequences and that the President has every right to nominate whomever he chooses to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. But I also know that Senators have the right – in fact, they have a constitutional responsibility, to question whether that nominee is the right choice. That is why the Framers required the Senate to provide advice and consent. We are not meant to be a rubber stamp. We need not rush to judgment simply to satisfy the political deadline of a State of the Union address.
I am convinced that Judge Alito is the wrong choice for America. In fact, I am convinced that he is a dangerous choice for America. This is a rare moment in Washington. We are facing the vote of a lifetime – a vote that will shape the law for generations to come. Despite the predictions of the pundits, the story is not over until the last vote is cast. We cannot win unless we try. The time to take a stand is now, to fight for the rights and freedoms of all Americans is when they’re endangered not after they’ve been diminished. It is time to take a stand against Judge Alito, and take a stand for the kind of America we’ve been for over two hundred years.