Senator Grassley has just joined us. He observes the demeanor of his Democratic colleagues on the committee yesterday was notably subdued. He adds that Judge Alito is so qualifed by service and distinguished by a long judicial record that he is a bit surprised by the reserve of the Democrats; he suggests they know that fighting Judge Alito’s confirmation is a losing cause. He believes Judge Alito will be confirmed by a smaller margin than then-Judge Roberts, “which is a shame.”
The role of the Senate in the confirmation process is to ensure competence and assure qualified nominees, consistent with Federalist 78. Democrats should give the same deference to Alito’s nomination that Republicans gave to President Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees; he himself voted to confirm then-Judge Ginsburg consistent with his understanding of his constitutional responsibility. He condemns inciviiity to Judge Alito; he thinks his Democratic colleagues may be setting a bad example for the rest of the country. He points to Judge Alito as a man deserving a respect and calls for his colleagues to fulfill their responsibilities as articulated by Alexander Hamilton. In nine town meetings in Iowa last week, he heard no opposition to Judge Alito. In several meetings he was asked for his assessment of his prospects, which he interpreted as supportive of the nomination.
As to Senator Leahy’s opening reference to Judge Alito’s purported inconsistencies in testimony yesterday, he is mystified. He thinks it may be a signal that the Democrats want a third round of questioning to appease the interest groups. He thinks his Democratic colleagues may be getting outside pressure to be tougher in their questioning. He nevertheless anticipates “wilting” opposition, in terms of fireworks rather than in terms of votes. If the groups want the vote in committee delayed a week, he thinks some Democratic member would accommodate them. He notes, however, that Republican leadership remain optimistic about getting a timely vote without a filibuster.
He decries the existence of secret holds on nominations; he thinks holds must be removed from the realm of the obscure. The extent to which pure partisanship can be secret encourages irresponsible behavior.
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