WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito “duped” the U.S. Senate into confirming them, a top Democratic lawmaker charged on Friday, days after a key Republican questioned if they had lived up to their promises.
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, a member of the Judiciary Committee that held hearings on the two, said they staked out moderate positions in congressional testimony but became part of a conservative bloc that issued restrictive rulings on issues from free speech to civil rights.
Schumer, in a speech to the American Constitution Society, talked about the confirmation of Roberts and Alito in 2005 and 2006, respectively.
“Were we duped?” he asked.
“Were we too easily impressed by the charm of nominee Roberts and the erudition of nominee Alito?” Schumer asked. “Did we mistakenly vote our hopes when our fears were more than justified by the ultraconservative records of these two men?”
“Yes,” he said.
His comments came days after Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a moderate Republican, said he intended to review the congressional testimony of Roberts and Alito.
The Politico, a Washington-based newspaper, quoted Specter as saying he wanted to see if Roberts and Alito had “lived up” to their promises to respect legal precedents.
In a series of 5-4 rulings in the past year on topics such as abortion and racial integration, the court’s conservative majority, bolstered by Roberts and Alito, unsettled established law and riled liberals.
A Republican leadership aide dismissed Schumer’s criticism, saying, ”The only people that were duped were those that listened to Democrats tell us the sky would be falling once these jurists were on the bench.
“I‘m happy to report that after the first full term with both justices on the bench, Americans are still free to speak their mind ... even Senator Schumer,” the aide said.