The Limits of Power: Questions for Alito | The Nation


The Limits of Power: Questions for Alito

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Usurping Congressional Power

If you were a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, what would you
ask Samuel Alito about his record and judicial philosophy? Send us your questions, and as the hearings
unfold, TheNation.com will publish the best of them.

About the Author

Brendan Smith
Brendan Smith is an journalist, oysterman and labor activist. He is co-founder of Global Labor Strategies, a consulting...
Jeremy Brecher
Jeremy Brecher, cofounder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, is author, most recently, of the just-published...

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Article 1 of the Constitution states: "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States." According to the Washington Post, Alito, ignoring the plain meaning of "all legislative powers," argued in a 1986 memo written for the Reagan Administration that the President should "routinely issue statements about the meaning of statutes when he signs them into law" to grant the President "the last word" in order to "increase the power of the Executive to shape the law." President Bush issued at least 108 of these "interpretive signing statements" in his first term alone, many of which "rejected provisions in bills that the White House regarded as interfering with its powers in national security [and] intelligence policy."

Judge Alito, do you still believe that the President can usurp the legislative authority of Congress? Do you deny that the Constitution entrusts Congress, and not the executive branch, with lawmaking power?

Torture and Accountability

President Bush recently signed into law the "McCain amendment" to a military spending bill outlawing the "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of detainees. But in the process he reserved the right under another one of Alito's "signing statements" to bypass the torture ban under his powers as Commander in Chief. David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, told the Boston Globe that the signing statement means that Bush believes he can still authorize harsh interrogation tactics when he sees fit.

Judge Alito, do you believe that the President's powers as Commander in Chief allow him to authorize torture in certain circumstances? Do you believe the Constitution grants the executive the power to defy an express Congressional ban on torture?

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