Floor Statement of Senator Barack Obama on the Confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito
Thank you Mr. President.
First off, let me congratulate Senators Specter and Leahy for moving yet another confirmation process along with a civility that speaks well of the Senate.
As we all know, there's been a lot of discussion in the country about how the Senate should approach this confirmation process. There are some who believe that the President, having won the election, should have the complete authority to appoint his nominee, and the Senate should only examine whether or not the Justice is intellectually capable and an all-around nice guy. That once you get beyond intellect and personal character, there should be no further question whether the judge should be confirmed.
I disagree with this view. I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe that it calls for meaningful advice and consent that includes an examination of a judge's philosophy, ideology, and record. And when I examine the philosophy, ideology, and record of Samuel Alito, I'm deeply troubled.
I have no doubt that Judge Alito has the training and qualifications necessary to serve. He's an intelligent man and an accomplished jurist. And there's no indication he's not a man of great character.
But when you look at his record - when it comes to his understanding of the Constitution, I have found that in almost every case, he consistently sides on behalf of the powerful against the powerless; on behalf of a strong government or corporation against upholding American's individual rights.
If there is a case involving an employer and an employee and the Supreme Court has not given clear direction, he'll rule in favor of the employer. If there's a claim between prosecutors and defendants, if the Supreme Court has not provided a clear rule of decision, then he'll rule in favor of the state. He's rejected countless claims of employer discrimination, even refusing to give some plaintiffs a hearing for their case. He's refused to hold corporations accountable numerous times for dumping toxic chemicals into water supplies, even against the decisions of the EPA. He's overturned a jury verdict that found a company liable for being a monopoly when it had over 90% of the market share at the time.
It's not just his decisions in these individual cases that give me pause - it's that decisions like these are the rule for Samuel Alito, not the exception.
When it comes to how checks and balances in our system are supposed to operate - the balance of power between the Executive Branch, Congress, and the Judiciary, Judge Alito consistently sides with the notion that a President should not be constrained by either Congressional acts or the check of the Judiciary. He believes in the overarching power of the President to engage in whatever the President deems to be appropriate policy. As a consequence of this, I'm extraordinarily worried about how Judge Alito might approach issues like wiretapping, monitoring of emails, or other privacy concerns that we've seen surface over the last several months.
In sum, I've seen an extraordinarily consistent attitude on the part of Judge Alito that does not uphold the traditional role of the Supreme Court as a bastion of equality and justice for United States citizens.
Should he be confirmed, I hope that he proves me wrong. I hope that he shows the independence that I think is absolutely necessary in order for us to preserve our liberties and protect our citizens.