Transcript: Republican Senators Welcome Judge Alito to Capitol Hill
Monday, October 31, 2005; 11:04 AM
SENATE REPUBLICANS HOLD A MEDIA AVAILABILITY WITH SUPREME COURT NOMINEE SAMUEL ALITO
FRIST: Good morning, everybody.
I wanted to formally welcome the judge to a process that will play out here over the next several days and next several weeks as we work up to an up-or-down vote for this outstanding nominee; a nominee that the president has named; that, over a period of the next several weeks, we will gather the papers for, have hearings, and then move toward that up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate.
The judge and I will have the same alma mater in going to Princeton. So very quickly people started sending me e-mails this morning. And interesting, one of the e-mails came from about the Nassau Herald in 1972. The judge and I talked about it over the course of the morning. And the Nassau Herald is the annual yearbook.
And in that -- he's probably forgotten -- in that yearbook it says the last two sentences: "Sam intends to go to law school and eventually warm a seat on the Supreme Court."
I haven't talked to Sam.
You don't have to comment on that. But again, let me formally welcome you to the United States Senate. Thank you.
ALITO: Thank you very much, Senator.
FRIST: Sam, why don't you comment? Then we'll be happy to open up with my colleagues.
ALITO: Well, that was a college joke. I think my real ambition at the time was to be the commissioner of baseball, and (inaudible). Of course, I never dreamed that this day would actually arrive.
As I said earlier this morning, I am tremendously honored by the nomination.
I've spent almost my entire professional career looking up to the Supreme Court in one way or another: when I was a young lawyer in the Solicitor General's Office arguing cases before the Supreme Court, when I was a federal prosecutor attempting to comply with the Supreme Court decisions in the area of criminal procedure, and then during my years on the court of appeals, trying to understanding and interpret and apply Supreme Court precedents as faithfully as I could.
And so this is a culmination of that whole process for me, a tremendous honor. And I really look forward to working with the Senate during the confirmation process.
FRIST: Thank you very much.
Let me turn to Senator McConnell and the chairman and the president pro tem.
MCCONNELL: Judge, let me welcome you as well to the Senate. What we guarantee you is a dignified process here, a respectful hearing, and at the end of that process an up-or-down vote, as has always been the case on Supreme Court nominees throughout the history of the Senate.
ALITO: Thank you.
FRIST: Mr. Chairman?
SPECTER: I've known Judge Alito for the better part of two decades. He sits on the Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which includes my state, Pennsylvania. He brings to this nomination a very distinguished record: was in the Solicitor General's Office, was U.S. attorney for New Jersey. He has been on the federal bench now for 15 years.
We are in the process of assembling his opinions. It is estimated that he has been involved in about 3,500 cases and has some 300 opinions which he has written, so that we have a very good idea as to his approach to jurisprudence.
And I'll be sitting down with him when this meeting ends. And I know that he'll be talking to members of the committee and senators generally.
And I've already put in the call to Senator Leahy, so that we can talk about the process and start off on a foot of coordinated activities between Democrats and Republicans to try to move along as promptly as possible, given the very heavy burden of paperwork which we know awaits us.
FRIST: President Pro Tem?
STEVENS: Well, I'm happy to meet the judge. I noted that he was confirmed unanimously by voice vote when he went to the court of appeals.
Well, I think we ought to keep in mind the best interests of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She has indicated she wants to retire. She stayed on as a courtesy at -- the whole (ph) process now. And I'm hopeful we can get the judge confirmed so that he will be there when the January term starts, at the very latest.
But it's going to be an interesting series of hearings you're going to hold, Arlen. We look forward to those. It's a lot of paperwork.
FRIST: Judge, again, we want to welcome you to the United States Senate.
I had the chance to meet with your family today. You have two lovely children. And I know they're mighty proud of you -- and your wife, Martha.
The process -- we're committing to being fair and civil and dignified. And our pledge to you, on behalf of the United States Senate, is to accomplish that, and to do it as soon as possible.
The big question, I know, that most of the media has, and I'm sure you have, and our colleagues will have over the course of the day, is the timing. And at this juncture, until I have a chance to consult with Senator Reid and the chairman -- as the chairman mentioned the ranking member -- we don't know exactly what that course will be.
In part, it depends on the provision of paperwork that needs to come over as well as initial review of the documents that reflect your work of the last 15 years and before that.
So, Judge, again, thank you very much. It's an honor to have you here.
FRIST: And with that, I think we can take a few questions if people would like.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about your position on abortion and some of the rulings that the judge has made and how that might come into conflict in approving in the hearings?
SPECTER: I'm not at all concerned about my position on a woman's right to choose.
I will be interested in Judge Alito's views on following precedents. He said in the very brief statement that he has worked hard to follow the precedents of the Supreme Court.
And there is a lot more to the issue of a woman's right to choose than how you may feel about it personally. We have a long tradition in the court, we have the principles and stare decisis and super- precedents and super-duper-precedents.
And you may be sure that that will be among the first items that Judge Alito and I will discuss, although I'm not going to ask him how he's going to rule on any case. Judicial independence mandates that that not be a question put to a prospective nominee.
But within the range of fairness, the Judiciary Committee, you can be assured, will give Judge Alito's nomination a very, very thorough review.
QUESTION: Senators, what do you make of the immediate negative reaction of Democrats to Judge Alito's nomination?
SPECTER: An immediate negative reaction? Well, this is Washington, D.C.
QUESTION: How much of a fight do you really expect on this? Senator Reid seemed disappointed on this.
FRIST: Yes, let me just say: There's going to be a lot of positioning from a political standpoint. And I think you've seen it. And it's from some expected voices on -- I'll say both sides of the aisle.
FRIST: As leadership, we're going to plow through that and we're going to stay above it.
And it's going to be tough. People know the climate here in Washington right now is very partisan.
We're going to do our very best to carry out and fulfill a responsibility that I was just talking to the judge's family about, talking to his children about: a process that is among the most, if not the most, important responsibility we have given to us by the Constitution, of advice and consent and confirmation of these judicial nominees.
And that is going to be my goal. We're going to carry it out. There will be a lot partisan, I think, comments made. But we're going to have a fair and dignified process with an up-or-down vote.
We'll take one more question and then the chairman is going to sit down with the judge. And there'll be plenty of time for questions. We'll just take one more question.
QUESTION: Judge Alito, are you apprehensive about being the subject of what could be a big fight in the Senate over your nomination?
ALITO: Well, I'm just looking forward to working with the Senate in the confirmation process. And I will do everything I can to cooperate with them and to discuss my record as a judge and the record of what I've done during the other stages of my legal career.
FRIST: OK, thank you all.