U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Samuel Alito has completed testimony at Senate confirmation hearings. During questioning Thursday morning Democrats continued to criticize Judge Alito's record
As he concluded his questioning of Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito, Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, again took aim at the nominee's judicial record. He said in cases where Alito ruled, there is evidence of what he called "legal contortion" and "inconsistent reasoning" to bend over backward to help the powerful.
"He may cite instances to make us think he helped the little guy, but the record is clear that the average person has a hard time getting a fair shake in Judge Alito's courtroom," Senator Kennedy said.
In addressing Alito, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah suggested the Democrats were playing politics.
"I do not think you have been fairly treated," he said.
The top Democrat on the committee, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, defended the tough questioning by the Democrats.
"The judge probably thinks he is doing nothing but being on a hot seat," he said, " but we are talking about a lifetime appointment, and it is the most powerful court in the land."
Some of the questions Alito was asked Thursday dealt with presidential powers, including the legality of President Bush's decision to order eavesdropping on phone calls of Americans suspected of terrorist ties. The president says he had the authority under 2001 congressional resolution authorizing force to fight terrorism, although some lawmakers disagree.
Alito says the issue has yet to be resolved.
"It is a question of statutory interpretation," he said.
If confirmed, Judge Alito would succeed the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is considered a moderate, and who often cast the deciding vote in 5-4 rulings on controversial cases. Democrats are concerned Alito would tilt the ideological balance of the court.
Alito called O'Connor, the first woman nominated to the high court, a pioneering figure, and praised her for what he called her meticulous devotion to the facts of cases that came before her.
Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat, asked Alito how he would emulate O'Connor on the high court.
"I would try to emulate her dedication and her integrity and her dedication to the case by case process of adjudication," he answered.
But when asked if he would rule as a centrist on the Supreme Court, he responded he would rule the way he did on the federal appeals court.
Meanwhile, Committee Chairman Republican Senator Arlen Specter said a search of records found no mention of Alito in a controversial college alumni group. Democrats demanded the review of the records of the now defunct Concerned Alumni of Princeton, which has been accused of opposing efforts to admit more women and minorities to the school. Alito had cited membership in the group in a job application with the Reagan administration.