The long-serving senator from Mass. writes that the two Supreme Court justices’ voting record betrays an ultraconservative agenda that they hid from Congress during the confirmation hearings.
Ted Kennedy in the Washingont Post:
I have had the honor of serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee for 43 years, during which I’ve participated in confirmation hearings for all the justices who now sit on the Supreme Court. Over that time, my colleagues and I have asked probing questions and listened attentively to substantive responses. Because we were able to learn a great deal about the nominees from those hearings, the Senate has rarely voted along party lines. I voted, for example, for three of President Ronald Reagan’s five Supreme Court nominees.
Of course, an examination of a nominee’s views may cause the Senate to withhold its consent. That is what happened in 1795 to John Rutledge, who was given a temporary commission as chief justice by President George Washington (while Congress was in recess) and was then rejected by the Senate several months later. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon’s nomination of G. Harrold Carswell was derailed when the Senate learned of his segregationist past. At that time, I explained that “the Constitution makes clear that we are not supposed to be a rubber stamp for White House selections.” That was also the Senate’s view in 1987, when its rejection of Robert H. Bork’s extreme views led to the unanimous confirmation of the more moderate Anthony M. Kennedy. The Senate’s constitutional role has helped keep the court in the mainstream of legal thought.