The Democrats' Partial Pro-Lifers
By Robert D. Novak Monday, April 23, 2007; Page A17
After the Supreme Court upheld the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a news conference: "I would only say that this isn't the only decision that a lot of us wish that [Justice Samuel] Alito weren't there and [former justice Sandra Day] O'Connor were there." Does that mean Reid was repudiating his 2003 Senate vote in favor of the bill? No, he told me Thursday, he was talking about other decisions by Alito.
...Reid, another of the 17 Democrats, was given a 65 percent pro-choice record by NARAL in 2006. He tried to resolve the confusion created by his comments by noting that the Supreme Court's 5 to 4 lineup on partial birth abortion flipped when Alito replaced O'Connor last year (with Reid opposing his confirmation). Reid's statement Wednesday was widely interpreted as backtracking on his 2003 vote. Roll Call said Reid "seemed to think the Supreme Court's decision was unwise."
"Not at all," Reid said when I asked him. Recalling his many votes against partial birth abortion, he indicated he supported the court's decision. "I just don't like what Alito has done on other cases," he said. What other cases? "I can't recall," Reid replied, but he promised aides would let me know.
They did so several hours later. Out of more than 50 decisions that Alito has participated in, Reid disagreed with four. These include Alito dissents, in 5 to 4 opinions, on mandating the federal government to consider global warming and the Hamdan case granting habeas corpus rights to U.S. detainees. Alito concurred in a 5 to 4 decision limiting federal regulation of wetlands and wrote the majority opinion in a 6 to 3 outcome (concurred with by liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) rejecting federal funding of an educational consultant under the disabilities act. But there is no record of Reid criticizing Alito's court opinions before Wednesday.