Specter issues parting blow to Roberts, Alito
December 21st, 2010
12:35 PM ET
3 years ago

Specter issues parting blow to Roberts, Alito

(CNN) - Sen. Arlen Specter, the outgoing Pennsylvania Republican-turned-Democrat, directed a parting blow Tuesday to members of the Supreme Court's conservative bloc.

In his final speech on the Senate floor, Specter, the former GOP chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chastised Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito for "eroding the constitutional mandate of separation of powers."


"The Supreme Court has been eating Congress' lunch by invalidating legislation with judicial activism after nominees commit under oath in confirmation proceedings to respect congressional fact finding and precedents," said Specter, who voted in favor of both Roberts and Alito when the Bush appointees came before his panel.

Specter specifically took issue with the court's controversial 5-4 decision early this year, in which it relaxed federally-imposed campaign finance regulations for corporations and unions.

"Ignoring a massive congressional record and reversing recent decisions, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito repudiated their confirmation testimony given under oath and provided the key votes to permit corporations and unions to secretly pay for political advertising - thus effectively undermining the basic Democratic principle of the power of one person, one vote," said Specter. Chief Justice Roberts promised to just call balls and strikes and then he moved the bases."

The divided decision last January in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission eased long-standing restrictions on "independent spending" by corporations and unions, and radically altered the election calculus ahead of the midterm elections.

Specter, who left the Republican Party in 2009 in hopes of avoiding a difficult primary challenge, lost the Democratic primary earilier this year.

– CNN's Bill Mears and Virginia Nicolaides contributed to this report


Filed under: Arlen Specter
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. MPeters

    What do you expect? Since Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court has become nothing but a politically partisan institution. Its sad that right now, in America, the frieze in the Court of Lady Justice with a blind-fold over her eyes, symbolizing Justice being blind, is anything but right now.

    Conservatives decry Judicial activism, but push for conservatively-active judges to overturn or disregard precedent in order to get their desired political outcome. For further evidence of this, please see the Healthcare Judge from last week in Virginia.

    December 21, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  2. republicans = Neanderthals

    Grain of salt. The man refused to vote for a public option because of health care companies in his state. I'm glad he's upset with Citizens United, don't get me wrong, but he's still a chump that serves special interests.

    December 21, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  3. GOP Taliban Victim

    Alito = worst SC justice in history

    December 21, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  4. Bob in Pa

    Whew, Snarlin buddy – We in Pa where just tired of tired old politics and tired old politicians. You switched parties, stabbed all your former supporters in the back and then voted for that monster of a health care bill. It was just time to go. No hard feelings buddy but you have no one to blame but yourself.

    December 21, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  5. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I haven't always agreed with Specter, but he does have a point here. The court ignored all previous legislation and previous court rulings when the decided Citizens United v. Federal Election . They opened the way for those that have money to basically kill anyone else who might run against them. The decision basically has come down to this: If you don't have money, you can run for office or have your politcal speech allowed on major medium like TV and newspapers.

    December 21, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  6. Bruce

    That's Arlen - a day late and several dollars short when it comes to confronting the truth. He and John Kerry (the man who had to lose a presidential race to discover that "elections matter") are among the Senate's most slow-witted members - add on John McCain and that's at least 3% of this Senate that no one would rate high in the brains department. .

    December 21, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  7. Vic of New York

    Here, here ! ! !

    The Right-Wing Totalitarian hippocrits and thier cronies in the Supreme Stink-a-roon Court are neither "Patriots" nor American. Roberts, Alito, and "Hustler Magazine" star Clemens are an abomination on the American Constitution.

    It's time to allow The People to recall Supreme Court Charlatans!!!

    December 21, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. roro

    I agree. The decision to allow companies to secretly fill the coffers of campaigners is an affront to the one person, one vote standard. How can the people compete with corporations? Campaign financing should be strictly done by citizens, and there should be limits. Also, the nastiness, lying, and hyperbole could be eliminated if each person running for office could only produce ads about themselves, and only after their claims have been fact-checked. Then we would have an educated electorate.

    December 21, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  9. Phil from Missouri

    At least Arlen had the guts to speak out. This court is made up of six Catholics and three people of the Jewish faith. What happened to Protestant America? I guess activist judges can be from the right too.

    December 21, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. Gil

    Good for Specter! We will see the rest of our elections bought by special interests thanks to the Robert's Court!

    December 21, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  11. badcyclist

    Good for Spector.

    He would get more credit if he had realized, as virtually everyone else did at the time, that Roberts and Alito were lying through their teeth during their Senate testimony. To be fair, Roberts and Alito were only trying to live up to the great tradition of lying under oath established earlier by Clarence Thomas. They didn't quite come up to the standard set by The Master, but they came admirably close.

    December 21, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Arlan Specter is an opportunistic anal pore, but calling out the Supreme Court Justices was something that needed to be done.
    That little farewell speech of his was probably the most truth he's told in his entire career in politics.
    Thanks Specter, and don't let the door hit 'ya where the good Lord split 'ya.

    December 21, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  13. Mike in Denver

    Totally correct these two judges should be charge with undermining our president & our country.

    December 21, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. Y So Negative

    So the power of the individual American was given to corporations, so that we need to go to them for "welfare" instead of working out our own problems. We give them all the wealth and have to go to them, instead of using our own freedoms of choice to function. Way to go Mr. Specter. These justices should be called out at every opportunity. What the Conservative Court has done to America since 2000 saddens and troubles me deeply. I am old enough to remember when we were a civil nation; before the greed set in, and the power struggles. Nice, going Supreme Court. Take the voice away from the average American and give it to the wealthy. Thanks to them, there goes the one man one vote thingy . . . Sad.

    December 21, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. Todd A

    While I have no respect for Spector, he is absolutely correct about the SC and in particular those 2 justices. The rules used to be that a company or union had to use political action committees(PACs) to funnel any money to candidates. This was all voluntarily offered up.

    I am in a union and I contribute to our PAC. That is my money that I choose to give. It is separate from any dues paid because our dues are for representation purposes only. I don't want my union giving away any of the representaion money. Now that could all change. I don't think it will, but it is possible.

    The real problem with this juducial activism is that corporations are free to donate as much $$ as they want regardless of minority shareholder wishes.

    This is all wrong, PACs kept everyone honest.

    December 21, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  16. Todd

    It's time that a Bill of Impeachment be filed against both of these so-called justices to begin a full inquiry to determine whether or not they lied to Congress in their confirmation testimony.

    December 21, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Democrats Class Warfare - Destroying the economy and country

    Is this incompetent weasel STILL around?! I had thought he crawled back into the hole he came out of. PLEASE GO AWAY AND GO AWAY QUICKLY! YOU"RE A LOSER!!!!

    December 21, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. Jim in Pa

    Well Bob in Pa. Wheteher you like Arlen or not ( I voted for Sestak ) he is completely accurate in what he says here. I see you have chosen the Repukelican tactic of not addressing the issue by attacking the speaker..And you cry about the sad state of politics..Cmon, be serious!

    December 21, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  19. Randy

    My name is Arlen Specter....and I am inconsequential.

    December 21, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Jon

    According to the rhetoric and the record of the majority on the Supreme Court, conservative judicial activism is OK, but liberal activism is a travesty. This just goes to show what shallow thinkers conservatives are and how far our country has fallen as a result. The U.S. has moved farther and farther right, especially since Carter, and the results have been devastating. Except for a brief respite of broader prosperity and fiscal sanity under Clinton, the country has moved toward national default through fiscal recklessness, toward the narrow prosperity of the wealthy few, and toward a disturbing abdication of the federal government's responsibility to protect the public from the irresponsibility of the financial sector. In addition, the raw judicial activism of the conservative majority in the Citizens United decision means that our democracy is being replaced by a plutocracy. Since the floodgates have been opened to unlimited spending of corporate cash flow on manipulating public opinion, good luck getting anybody elected who won't toe the corporate line, no matter the consequences for the public.

    December 21, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  21. sonny chapman

    Judicial Activism can only be a Liberal affliction. Conservatives are too NOBLE for that. Don't believe me ? Just ask a Conservative how patriotic & holy they are.

    December 21, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  22. bobden

    What does it take to impeach something like Alito? Or Roberts?

    December 21, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  23. alfred

    That piece of trash is now heading for the trash bin, perhaps next election a couple of cohorts can join him and alan grayson in the gutter where they belong.

    December 21, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  24. Phil in KC

    It's fun watching someone turn the tables on the Republicans, for a change, after all their complaints of "judicial activism". I guess it's not "judicial activism" if they vote your way....

    December 21, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  25. Tony

    Can you say Sour Grapes???? Ole Arlen is just pissed that his flip flopping backfired and has to take it out on someone. Bye Bye Arlen!!

    December 21, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
1 2