January 11, 2006

Specter to Alito: "I'm starting to worry about you."

With the second round of questioning beginning, Senator Specter seems to be in good spirits. He gets an exchange going about whether members of Congress can reason as well as the judges:
SPECTER: I take it from your statement, you wouldn't subscribe to overturning congressional acts because of our method of reasoning.

ALITO: I think that Congress's ability to reason is fully equal to that of the judiciary.

SPECTER: And you think that even after appearing here for a day and a half?


ALITO, smiling: I have always thought that, and nothing has changed my mind about that.

SPECTER: I'm starting to worry about you.

One thing about this topic that might not be apparent to the layperson is that they are talking about whether the Court should defer to a congressional finding that the matter to be regulated has a "substantial effect on interstate commerce" (and thus fits the commerce power, as the doctrine sets the test). But the congressional findings behind a statute (like the Violence Against Women Act) will tend to stress the importance of a problem and the need for a solution, while the judicial reasoning will focus on whether the causal chain between the problem and the effect on commerce is too attenuated. Both institutions may reason perfectly cogently, but the Court is talking precisely about the legal standard, and Congress's reasoning may not be attuned to that. That's why one can fully acknowledge the equal reasoning powers and still be committed to the judicial enforcement of limits on congressional power. Alito's answer includes this point but doesn't belabor it, so you might not notice.


Simon Peter said...

Thanks for helping us read between the lines on that exchange.

And is humour allowed in D.C.? I thought politicians telling jokes was a sign of the endtimes?

sonicfrog said...

Woops...Kennedy just made a reference to Alito's promise of recusal did not "carrying much weight".

tiggeril said...

My parents are in town and my dad is watching the hearings now.

He talks back to the senators like it was a football game.


TidalPoet said...

Sen. Kennedy, meet gavel.

(smadamm: hidden tyrants?)

bearbee said...

Kennedy.....poster child for term limits....

Palladian said...

Ugh, I can't believe Kennedy is still carping on about his letter to Specter. This looks desperate. He knows that Alito's unsinkable.

John A said...

OK< I am no scholar and my formal education is some forty years ago, but is it not one of the reasons -- possibly the main one -- for the establishment of SCOTUS as a third branch of government not answering to Legislative or Executive so that it may consider decisions by the other branches and affirm or reject their legality? Why, then, should the Court "defer" to Congress?

Dave said...

I want to know why Alito's wife left the questioning in tears.

That seems a rather inappropriate reaction for an adult to have. Sneatorial inquisitions may be annoying but they are nothing to cry over, especially if you are not the person going through the ringer.

Alito's wife is a weak woman.

I hope he is not the same.