Alito has high credentials for Supreme Court
President Bush has nominated federal appeals Judge Samuel Alito to be a Supreme Court justice.
PRESIDENT Bush has appeased his political base by nominating federal appeals Judge Samuel A. Alito to the Supreme Court. In doing so, he has disappointed proponents of diversity on the high court and angered Senate Democrats and supporters of abortion rights by choosing a conservative man who clearly possesses credentials to be a Supreme Court justice.
Derisively dubbed "Scalito" from the left, Alito is no clone of Justice Antonin Scalia, the court's razor-sharp right edge. Alito is known to be probing but polite, with a sense of humor. His judicial philosophy, not his temperament, will be at issue as the Senate considers his confirmation to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Most noteworthy is Alito's dissent from a 1991 ruling by the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down a Pennsylvania law requiring women to notify their husbands before obtaining an abortion. "Of course he's against abortion," his 90-year-old mother candidly told the Associated Press.
Alito is not conservative on every issue. Three years ago, he ruled in favor of a disabled woman who had sought Social Security benefits after being laid off from her job as an elevator operator. Scalia wrote the Supreme Court decision that overturned the Alito ruling. Last year, Alito supported educational disability status for a child who suffered emotional disturbance resulting from harassment by classmates.
Unquestionably, Alito is a conservative on most issues. Like Chief Justice John Roberts, he served in the Reagan administration in the Justice Department's Office of Solicitor General, which argues for the government before the Supreme Court. Unlike Harriet Miers and even Roberts, he has extensive bench experience, having been nominated to the 3rd Circuit by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.
His confirmation would give Catholics a majority and halve the number of women to one on the Supreme Court. Bush was urged to nominate a woman or the first Hispanic. It is true, as Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said, that Alito's presence on the court would make it look "less like America and more like an old boys' club."
Senate Democrats promise a battle over Alito's confirmation. The question is whether they will attempt a filibuster, applying a Senate rule that allows 41 senators to block a vote on confirmation.
Senator Inouye was among seven Democrats who joined seven Republicans in May in a compromise over use of a filibuster to block nominees to federal appeals courts. Republicans agreed not to exercise the so-called nuclear option, eliminating the filibuster rule, and Democrats agreed not to use the filibuster except in "extraordinary circumstances." At this stage, the Alito nomination presents no such circumstance.