Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Specter Set to Grill Roberts at Confirmation Hearings

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's moderate Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, intends to question Bush Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr. on a number of key cases during the enigmatic conservative's confirmation hearings slated to begin September 6th. Specter, amid cheers from Democrats and jeers from the GOP, shot off a three-page letter to Roberts indicating that the nominee will be asked to share his views on landmark cases where rulings on issues ranging from abortion, civil rights, environmental protection and interstate commerce have shaped the court since. At issue in particular is the power Congress has to enact broad legislation on a number of social issues, and whether the court believes that it has the authority to do so. To be sure, Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to regulate interstate commerce. The court seems to lately have a different interpretation. In the mid 90's the court ruled in two key cases--U.S. v. Lopez and U.S. v. Morrison--that clearly diminished this power and set the stage for the ensuing legal debate and battle between the two branches of government. In Lopez, the court overturned law that made it a crime to possess a gun within 1000 feet from a school. In Morrison, part of the Violence Against Women Act was invalidated. In both cases, the court ruled that Congress lacked the authority to pass such laws, citing lawmakers' "method of reasoning" as the basis for overturning legislation. The court, under Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, seems to have a general disdain for politicians. Specter sees this as the court saying that "Congress is incompetent." And that's ruffled his feathers and those of many other senators on both sides of the aisle. On the left, Chuck Schumer has lead the charge against Roberts and the need for the White House to release documents relating to Roberts' tenure as deputy solicitor general in the Reagan and Bush administrations from 1989 to 1993. The hope and expectation is that these documents will shed some light on Roberts and his beliefs. To date, Bush has refused to provide these papers. This has set the stage for the September showdown between the Judiciary Committee, Roberts and the court. Specter will ask Roberts to comment on the Lopez and Morrison cases, which in the Senator's view, "overturned almost 60 years of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause," as well as on the always volatile subject of Roe v. Wade. Whether Roberts responds or pulls a Ginsburg and refuses to answer the committee's questions a la Clinton appointee Ruth Bader-Ginsburg in 1993, is anyone's guess. But it's now abundantly clear that Roberts will face the music from both the right and left. Kudos to Specter for putting duty to country before partisanship. Andy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He may find himself struck down by a 'magic bullet' shot by the RepubliKKKan Thrill Kill Kult.

And that ain't no theory...