The New York Times reports that Snarlin' Arlen is doing plenty to help the Democrats who are determined to give John Roberts a tough grilling. According to the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 - In the first hint of how he will steer the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge John G. Roberts Jr., Senator Arlen Specter, the Judiciary Committee chairman, said Monday that he would press the nominee for his views on specific cases involving the authority of Congress to pass broad social legislation, a power that Democrats fear will be rolled back by a more conservative court.
In a three-page letter to Judge Roberts, Mr. Specter raises pointed questions about two recent court decisions invalidating legislation Congress passed under its authority to regulate interstate commerce. That power has for decades been used to produce expansive legislation, including environmental protections, civil rights laws and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The current court has been trimming back the authority, however, and Democrats have vowed to make interstate commerce a big issue in the Roberts hearings. Now Mr. Specter, a Republican who is widely regarded as the panel's sharpest constitutional lawyer, is suggesting that he shares the Democrats' concerns.
"I think Republicans have a duty to pursue this line of questioning and any relevant line of questioning," Mr. Specter said on Monday in a telephone interview from his home in Philadelphia.
He said he was particularly upset that the court, under Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, had questioned lawmakers' "method of reasoning" in striking down laws.
"Well, that's just another way of saying Congress is incompetent," Mr. Specter said, adding, "I'm not suggesting we pack the court, but at a minimum, the Senate is determined to confirm new justices who respect their role."
Democrats and liberal advocacy groups, caught off guard by Mr. Specter's letter, were elated.
"Pack the Court"???? Democrats and liberal advocacy groups "elated". It's not easy to make the Obstructionists happy but Arlen's done just that.
"Arlen Specter sounds exactly like Chuck Schumer," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Mr. Schumer said that he viewed the letter as "a vindication of the campaign I've been waging" to have the nominee answer detailed questions about cases.
Specter is clearly opening the door to asking Roberts about what he thinks of (read how he would rule) on specific cases. This screams LITMUS TEST to me. And if that weren't bad enough:
Mr. Specter's letter to Judge Roberts came as Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, urged the White House to reconsider its decision on Friday to deny Democrats access to legal memorandums the nominee wrote while in the office of solicitor general. In the interview, Mr. Specter did not rule out pressing President Bush on behalf of Democrats, saying instead that he was studying the law governing the White House assertion that the material is covered by attorney-client privilege.
"This is not something that you do a knee-jerk partisan reaction to," Mr. Specter said.
The Roberts nomination will get through. The Rehnquist replacement could be a lot dicier.