Alito Hearings Begin

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SCOTUSBlog is doing a liveblog summarizing the senators' speeches. It begins with Grassley. I guess they missed the first hour. (Update: See also the Washington Post blog, which seems to be putting each senator's comments in a separate post.

I have to say that I'm getting really tired of this insipid claim that the kind of scrutiny the Senate needs to engage in should be any more because this is a man replacing a woman, because this is a replacement for a swing vote, because some indications lead to the conclusion that this nomination would change the balance of the court, or whatever other factor particular to this case they want to mention. The amount of scrutiny this hearing demands and the kinds of questions the senators should ask should not change no matter who is leaving the court and no matter who is nominated. There should be no more serious inquiry because some senators are alarmed that the president chosen by the people has nominated someone they think will move the court in a direction they fear. There is no spot on the court necessarily reserved for any judicial philosophy, political perspective, or ethnic or gender group.

I agree that it's good to have a Supreme Court that better reflects the ethnic and gender makeup of the U.S., and I think that should be a factor presidents should consider, but why should that be a factor in the Senate's confirmation hearings? It's as if they're trying to come up with something beforehand that they can then pull out if their case for voting against him proves weak enough that they want to pad it with irrelevant things with emotional appeal. Just because this is an important consideration doesn't make it an absolute requirement, and just because they would choose someone different if they were president does not mean they should use their highest standards for choosing their first choice as the only standards that apply to whether they consent. I might not pick the same person as my first choice, but I would certainly consent to many people who are not my first choice. I think the senators are making a mistake if they fail to see the difference between the president's role in choosing the person he thinks is best and the Senate's role in consenting to the president's choice. It's possible not to consent to a president's first choice, but it seems to me that these considerations about who might be the best choice (if relevant at all for the president) are entirely inappropriate for a Senate confirmation hearing.

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