While they don’t have a vote, the House’s black members — all Democrats — don’t want to see Samuel Alito confirmed as retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement on the Supreme Court.
The one black member of Congress who does have a vote, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, hasn’t made up his mind about the New Jersey jurist picked by President Bush for the job.
The Congressional Black Caucus, which includes 42 House members as well as Obama, will announce Thursday its opposition to Alito. It also opposed the nomination of now-Chief Justice John Roberts, but waited until his confirmation hearings to announce that position.
Alito’s hearing begins Jan. 9.
President Bush nominated the 55-year-old federal appeals court judge on Oct. 31. If confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, Alito would succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She has often case the swing vote on abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action and other contentious issues.
“The members of the CBC are concerned about Judge Alito’s opinions, many in dissent, in race cases where his decisions have disproportionately affected African-Americans,” said Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., the caucus chairman.
“We are troubled by what appears to be a very conservative judicial philosophy that seems greatly at odds with much of 20th century constitutional jurisprudence,” Watt said.
A group of Democratic House women also planned to announce their opposition to Alito on Thursday, along with the National Women’s Law Center.
On Wednesday, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, urged the Justice Department to release additional documents on Alito’s government career.
The department has made public thousands of documents from Alito’s career as a government lawyer and an appeals court judge, but some documents have been withheld using exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, Leahy said.
“The Senate, in the exercise of its constitutional function of advice and consent for presidential nominations, is not subject to those exceptions,” Leahy said. “Nevertheless, in the interest of expediting this matter and avoiding any need for delaying our proceedings, we request that you immediately supplement the material already provided.”
Leahy wants the department to review the documents in question, determine why they was withheld and whether they can be given in whole or in part to just the committee’s senators.
Republicans want a confirmation vote for Alito by Jan. 20.