Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. said today that Supreme Court nominee David H. Souter should answer specific questions on abortion and other politically volatile issues at his confirmation hearings.
“At this fateful moment in our history we have a right to know” the answers to such questions, said Biden (D-Del.). As Judiciary Committee chairman, he will preside over the hearings on Souter’s nomination, scheduled to begin Thursday.
Meanwhile, the president of the National Organization for Women charged that Souter’s nomination is part of a right-wing campaign to stack the court with justices hostile to the rights of women and minorities.
NOW President Molly Yard told a news conference that Souter is “almost Neanderthal” and that his record indicates that he would vote to overturn the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion.
“You’re literally talking about women’s lives,” she said. “That’s what’s at stake.”
Biden brushed aside any notion that it would be wrong to force a Supreme Court nominee to give his views on such matters as abortion, civil rights and freedom of religion that will come before the court.
“All signs point to the need for very extensive, detailed questioning of this nominee,” Biden said.
He said he has not decided yet whether the federal judge from New Hampshire should be confirmed. But he did acknowledge that “a number of questions have been raised in my mind.”
He called the nomination “the most important business to come before the Senate this year” and said Souter’s impact on the court will linger “long after (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein has bitten the dust, long after the current budget crisis has been replaced by some other fiscal dilemma.”