Wash. Post neglected to note Brownback's conflicting statements on political tests for Supreme Court nominees

››› ››› EVA HOWE

Following the first day of Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination hearing, The Washington Post reported that Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) said, "The idea that there are spots on the Supreme Court reserved for certain ideologies is a falsehood. Seats on the bench are not reserved for causes or interests." But the Post failed to note that Brownback made contradictory remarks last October, when he reportedly said he would consider voting against former Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers over the question of her willingness to revisit Roe v. Wade.

In a January 10 Washington Post article on the opening day of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, staff writers Charles Babington and Amy Goldstein reported that Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) said, "The idea that there are spots on the Supreme Court reserved for certain ideologies is a falsehood. Seats on the bench are not reserved for causes or interests." But they did not report that Brownback made very different remarks in October 2005 in the context of the Senate's consideration of former nominee Harriet Miers. After meeting with Miers, Brownback reportedly said that he would consider voting against Miers's nomination because he was unable to determine whether she would be open to revisiting or overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 1973 landmark abortion rights decision.

Brownback's January 9 comments were reported in the context of Republican allegations that, as paraphrased by Babington and Goldstein, "Democrats are focusing inappropriately on which side Alito has taken in cases involving various social issues." But, as Babington himself wrote in an October 7, 2005, Post article, after meeting with Miers, "Brownback said his biggest concern was not knowing where she stood on 'key issues of the day,' such as abortion, same-sex marriage and property rights." Additionally, The New York Times reported that same day:

The senator, Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, told reporters that in an hourlong meeting with him, Ms. Miers had steered clear of discussing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that found a constitutional right to abortion, and had done little to assure him that she would be open to revisiting or overturning that case.

''No promises were made either way,'' Mr. Brownback said. He said he would consider voting against the nomination, even if President Bush made a personal plea for his support.

Asked if he was impressed with Ms. Miers, Mr. Brownback paused, and then offered a careful reply: ''She's a very decent lady.''

The senator said he had tried to initiate a discussion of abortion law by raising the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, a 1965 decision that established a married couple's right to use contraception and later served as a basis for Roe. Mr. Brownback said Ms. Miers did not use the term ''settled law'' to describe Roe -- a phrase that, he said, would have been ''a red flag'' indicating she would not overturn the decision. But neither would she discuss it, saying related cases could come before the court.

''She has stated that she does not believe the circumstances of Griswold will come back in front of the court,'' Mr. Brownback said, recounting the conversation, ''but that the legal issue of Roe, clearly, and the legal issue involved here is very much a live issue.''

From the January 10 Washington Post article:

Several GOP senators touted Alito's academic credentials, job experience and appellate rulings.

Republicans also said the Senate should apply what Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) called "a judicial, not a political, standard" to Alito's record. They said Democrats are focusing inappropriately on which side Alito has taken in cases involving various social issues.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said: "The idea that there are spots on the Supreme Court reserved for certain ideologies is a falsehood. Seats on the bench are not reserved for causes or interests."

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.