Dianne Feinstein to Question Roberts on Abortion

Dianne Feinstein is the only woman on the 17-member Judiciary committee. This position is not one she is taking lightly in terms of the Roberts nomination. With questions abounding about his stance on abortion, Feinstein, who is a staunch advocate of women’s rights said today that “she will scrutinize his views on abortion and congressional authority to set social policy.”

She called the impending debate over Roberts’ nomination a “big, big deal.”

“I don’t think in the last couple of decades there has been a Supreme Court appointment that could more tip the balance of the court,” Feinstein said in a speech to several hundred Silicon Valley business executives. “That’s how mega this vote is.”

Feinstein said she has a “special role and a special obligation” in grilling Roberts – particularly on his views about the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. “I happen to feel that it would be very difficult for me to vote yes on a nominee I thought would overturn Roe vs. Wade,” she said.

In her remarks Monday, Feinstein also said the Supreme Court under Chief Justice William Rehnquist had restricted congressional authority to pass legislation.

She said the Rehnquist court had used the Constitution’s interstate commerce clause and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to weaken or invalidate at least three dozen federal laws in the last decade. She said those included the Violence Against Women Act and the Brady handgun law.

She described those two constitutional provisions as the “the primary sources of congressional power” to enact social policy.

Whether Roberts favored such an approach would heavily influence her decision on whether to vote for him, Feinstein said.

“I would like to come away with the view that he was not going to be one who would further restrict and bind lawmakers’ hands and keep them from enacting legislation that the people of this country want,” she said.

Also reported today on the Roberts nomination: Fight over Roberts memos doesn’t end with deadline

That refusal will be an issue in Roberts’ confirmation hearings. Leahy accuses the White House of “stonewalling” on “documents that would help illuminate Judge Roberts’ views and choices on important issues of concern to all Americans – civil rights, privacy and access to justice.”

Leahy insists that the public’s need to know more about Roberts’ legal philosophy trumps the Justice Department’s desire to protect internal communications.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee want documents connected with 16 cases that Roberts either argued himself, or approved the government arguing, as the top deputy for Kenneth Starr, then solicitor general. The cases involve questions about the rights of women, minorities, and defendants.

Democrats also want:

• Access to about 2,000 pages of documents from Roberts’ years in the Reagan administration that were withheld under Freedom of Information Act exemptions to protect national security and personal privacy. Leahy said the Senate needs “as much information as possible” before deciding to confirm Roberts.

• More information on a Roberts file of “affirmative action correspondence” that disappeared after White House officials reviewed it last month at the Ronald Reagan presidential library. National Archives officials said they tracked down copies that they believe were in the file and are investigating what happened to the original.

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20 Responses to Dianne Feinstein to Question Roberts on Abortion

  1. John A Haag III says:

    Will this be the same Diane Feinstein who voted for Bush’s war and supports the war to this day as legitimate and the same Diane feinstein who shepherded Condi rice through the Senate hearings on her nomination as secretary of state??

  2. John A Haag III

    I suppose it will be. Personally I prefer to use my blog to point out the good things that our elected Dems are doing. There are a wealth of blogs and forums that prefer to trash and bash our Dems, this is not one of them.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. John A Haag III says:

    Sorry, I was not bashing anyone but just relating the truth. in the future I will respond in Blogs that provide a courteous sharing of ideas.

  4. John

    We’re all well aware of what Dianne Feinstein has voted for that is objectionable to most Dems. However, she also has voted for many things that are important to Dems including women’s rights, gun control and recently she sponsored a bill against bunker busters.

    I personally believe we need a lot more unity in the party, so if that means showing some respect for our elected officials when they do something good, I will highlight those things here.

  5. John A Haag III says:

    Pam, as a resident of California Diane went against the wishes of her constituents and approved Bush’s war based on lies that has killed 1863 Americans as well as Hundreds of thousands of innocent men Women and children.
    I agree we do need unity in the party, however not at the expense of relieving Feinstein of her actions that played a major part in the Deaths of others, which I believe pales her other accomplishments.
    If you accept her in spite of that then I respectfully believe that she can escape any blame for this mess even though she endorsed it.
    Womens Rights as well as the other issues you mentioned are important however are better managed by someone with no blood on their hands.

  6. John

    I’m a resident of CA as well. I’m focused on the future, not the past. we have to move past the blame on work on things we can do to make a difference. I have concerns about the Roberts nomination, as woman and as the mother of teenage daughter. I personally respect Dianne Feinstein for her understanding of how critical this nomination is to women’s rights.

    What I posted here is about Dianne Feinstein is doing now, not what she has done in the past. I reiterate we can not change the past, but we can change the future.

  7. Ron Chusid says:


    Not being from California I’m sure I know less than you do about Diane Feinstein’s record. She certainly hasn’t been one of my favorites since backing Bush’s Medicare bill. That said, if there was a discussion of the prescripiton drug bill or of other areas where I’ve disagreed with her vote it might make sense to point them out. I see less point in bringing up these other issues in response to a post on Feinstein questioning Roberts on abortion rights. We agree here and I see no reason to bring up areas of disagreement in response to a post on something worthwhile she is doing.

  8. John

    Point in fact: There are plenty of posts on this blog about Iraq. This is not one of them. This is about the Roberts nomination and quite frankly I don’t get your persistence.

    I respect Dianne Feinstein on some levels. I disagree with her on others. This issue is one I respect.

    I also don’t feel that bashing Dems is condusive to our winning future elections. If David Sirota wants to bash, great. I’m not about that and as I mentioned, neither is my blog.

  9. Ron Chusid says:

    Many opponents of the war are only hurting their own cause by falsely labeling other Democrats as being pro-war. While there were a handful, most Democrats who might not echo every word of the ditto heads of the lunatic left are opposed to the war. Most of the handful of Democrats who were pro-war did not support the war as waged by Bush, and the opposition would be far stronger if they were more concerned witth achieving results than in demanding some sort of ideological purity.

  10. I have emailed Senator Feinstien about the same points covered in the comments above. I, too, reside in CA and I worked on the campaigns since 1988 to stop the Stealth Candidates of the Evangelical Right Wing.

    John Roberts is the ultimate “Stealth” Nominee. His true wardrobe (sheet and hood) is not the Robes of a Justice, but one of the past.

    I hope the two sided Senator that bounces from left to right when she feels the heat.

    I blame her for the Gropenator being in Sacramento.

  11. John A Haag III says:

    Diane Feinstein did vote for and does support the war, This is not the lunatic left speaking, just her record. If you feel obliged to excuse her record that has killed so many Americans then that is your choice, but it just continues the downward spiral of democrats led to the slaughter.
    That’s why the democratic Party seems to be Republican Lite.
    If you sincerely care about the Democratic Party then look to the near succesful race nearly won by Paul Hacket, Calling a spade a spade and having new ideas, not simply opposing people but offering alternative policies.
    Dianne feinstein caved and she caused Americans to lose their lives, Cindy Sheehan should be at her office asking her why just as she is asking Bush.

  12. James

    I think I have made myself very clear here. This Iraq war is not the topic of discussion here. I’m not excusing her record, I am reporting news that involves Feinstein on a different matter. I don’t condone the war, but I also don’t believe in holding Dems accountable, who voted for the war based on lies (unbeknownst at the time) from the Bush cabal. It’s counter productive at this point.

    From what I have read in CA news DiFi is poised to keep her Senate seat in the next election. Some folks don’t want to see that happen, I understand that, but no one has stepped up to oppose her, and quite frankly I don’t feel we can risk possibly losing her seat to a republican who won’t protect freedom of choice and other issues that DiFi does stand up for.

    This blog will NOT be a bash fest for disgruntled Dems.

    Take it somewhere else. End of discussion.

  13. Karen Kohr Blinn

    I don’t blame anyone for anything. As I have explained more than once in this thread, this is not a blog that supports bashing Dems. This is not the first time DiFi has said she will stand up on the Roberts issue. Women’s rights are an issue she has always fought for. I feel that she will this time, as well.

    Thank you for sharing… Your sentiment is appreciated, but not supported here, in the future share your gripes somewhere that supports bashing Dems. This blog does not.

  14. Ron Chusid says:

    Maybe Feinstein voted for the war, but the external link above goes far beyond that. There are elements of the liberal blogosphere which has been falsely labeling many Democrats who opposed the war as pro-war due to not meeting every one of their arbitrary litmus tests.

    The real point is that this is a story on Feinstein’s plans to question Roberts on abortion rights. She is doing the right thing on this, and her view on the war is irrelevant to this point. We will not accomplish anything if we only accept the work of people who take the correct view on every issue.

  15. Anthony Tsang Yee says:

    Everyone should remember the lies tendered to all members of congress by this present administration and its neocon lackeys. Given this list of well known “facts” as lies we should all go alittle easy on those who did vote for war. Having said that, the case for immediate withdrawal and cessation of war in Iraq is warranted and overdue. Those same lies got us into Iraq should sure as hell be able to get us out. Now back to the subject at hand, as noted earlier in this blog… Judge Roberts does not now or ever deserve a place on the bench of the Supreme Court. Everything published to date on his judgements, opinions, notes prove him to the wrong person for this lifetime appointment. He represents the extreme need for the democrats to filibuster this appointment.

  16. Anthony

    Well put on all levels. Thank you.

  17. John A Haag III says:

    Well put however Feinstein wasnt tricked. If she was she was fooled pretty good because to this day she still supports the War in Iraq as legitimate.

  18. John

    I’ve been consistently polite here that:

    1) This topic is not about the Iraq war
    2) This blog does not support bashing Democrats in office

    To that end, if you would like to discuss the Roberts nomination and the fact that Dianne Feinstein will be, as the only woman on the Judiciary Committee, questioning Roberts on his views on abortion, we welcome that discussion. Otherwise, your insistence on bashing Dianne Feinstein is not welcome here.

  19. John A Haag III says:

    Boxer Calls For Information On Roberts Nomination

    Senator Asks: What Are They Hiding?

    September 13, 2005

    Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) gave the following speech last night on the Senate floor regarding the Roberts nomination:

    Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Maryland for her leadership in reaching out to the people of this country, asking them to send in their questions for Judge Roberts. As she noted, 25,000 individuals wrote in questions and we received a total of 40,000 questions. It shows the American people have a lot at stake. This is a serious time for our country, and a very important nomination. We certainly know that.

    Most Americans understand that the Court plays a huge role in defending our rights and freedoms, and now Judge Roberts has been nominated to be the Chief Justice of the United States. Although some will say it makes no difference, it makes a big difference. The Chief Justice runs the Court, sets its tone, assigns responsibility for writing its decisions, has a certain amount of cachet to speak for the Court, and so on.

    The Judiciary Committee began its hearings today on Judge Roberts. This is a vital part of the advice and consent role of the Senate. Before we vote, it is every Senator’s duty to find out if Judge Roberts will uphold or undermine our fundamental freedoms, the freedoms that essentially define us as Americans. It is our duty to find out if Judge Roberts will fulfill the promise etched above the Court itself: Equal justice under the law — not justice only for the powerful, but equal justice for all. And when I say we have a duty, I am talking about our responsibility as Senators to act on behalf of we the American people.

    That is why the Democratic women, under Senator Mikulski’s leadership, created the AskRoberts Web site. Americans submitted 40,000 questions about a broad range of issues, including privacy, reproductive health, civil rights, women’s rights, and the environment. One individual posed this question to Judge Roberts: In your opinion, why would the White House refuse to turn over public records from your time as Deputy Solicitor General? What is there to hide?

    What is there to hide? It is a very important question. Senators on both sides of the aisle should be asking that question. Before we confirm Judge Roberts to a lifetime appointment as Chief Justice, we need to know everything possible about his views and philosophy. This isn’t because it is interesting, because I am sure it would be interesting. Judge Roberts is a very bright and interesting man. But it is because every American’s rights and freedoms hang in the balance. Judge Roberts has a very thin record on the bench. Therefore, his writings and statements, when he worked for the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration, become very important.

    We know that in his position working for Kenneth Starr, Mr. Roberts played a very important role. He was a top decision maker in the Solicitor General’s Office. He appeared before the Supreme Court and, by his own admission, made the final determination of which cases to appeal in hundreds of circumstances. It is not as if we haven’t gotten information like this before. We did so during the confirmation hearings for Judge Bork and Justice Rehnquist.

    That is why Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Senator Leahy, and the Democratic leadership, under the leadership of Senator Reid, and the Democratic women, under the leadership of Senator Mikulski, and the entire Democratic caucus have written letter after letter to Attorney General Gonzales demanding these documents be released.

    We are talking about a very narrow request — only 16 cases — not a broad request for all records. What are these cases we are asking about? They include three about reproductive health, five about discrimination and civil rights, and three about the environment. These are the very issues Americans told us they wanted Roberts to answer questions about when they wrote to our web site.

    In poll after poll, the American people are saying that Judge Roberts has to tell us what he believes, and we deserve to have this information. Everyone agrees that Judge Roberts is extremely qualified and very personable. But we need to know about his views and philosophy because, if confirmed, the cases he would decide will impact the daily lives of all Americans.

    I believe the American people want transparency and openness in this process. This should not be some hide-and-seek, catch-me-if-you-can deal. This is about someone who could sit on the Court for 30 years, or more. This is someone who is going to influence the lives of our grandchildren and perhaps even our great grandchildren.

    In addition to getting the information on these cases, Judge Roberts also must answer questions, and I hope he is going to do that. I know a couple of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle today seemed to be counseling him not to answer questions. One of them cited Judge Ginsburg, and said she drew the line by refusing to answer questions.

    Let me tell you what Judge Ginsburg said at her hearing when she was asked about Roe v. Wade and a woman’s reproduction freedom. She said: “It’s a decision she must make for herself. And when Government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human.”

    That is a quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And it is certainly at odds with all that Senator Hatch and others are saying about how Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t answer questions about key legal issues. No. 1, her writings on this and other topics were extensive. Then at the hearing, she said clearly that when the Government takes control — I am going to read it again:

    “When Government controls that decision, a woman is being treated as less than a fully adult human.”

    I want to know whether Judge Roberts agrees with that. He will have a chance to express that view and also his view about the role of Congress in protecting our families and communities. Take, for example, the violence against women. Part of that act, written by Joe Biden and Orrin Hatch — and I worked with Senator Biden for years on that — part of that law was thrown out. We want to know how Judge Roberts feels about whether we in the Senate can protect the women of our country, can protect the families of our country, can protect those who perhaps cannot speak for themselves.

    We need to know if Judge Roberts thinks the right to privacy is a fundamental right. We know he wrote about it as the so-called right of privacy.

    If I referred to your spouse as your “so-called spouse,” that would be an insult, wouldn’t it? If I referred to your right to vote as your “so-called right to vote,” my constituency would be very upset with me because the right to vote is not a so-called right. So when you say something is a so-called right, it raises a lot of questions about how you feel about it.

    We also need to know why Judge Roberts argued before the Supreme Court and on national TV that our Federal courts and marshals had no role in stopping clinic violence when women were being threatened and intimidated at family planning clinics all over the country.

    It is time for Judge Roberts to say what he really thinks – on privacy, on gender discrimination, on civil rights, on the environment. On the appellate court, he wrote an opinion that raises questions about whether he would find the endangered species act constitutional. Does he think it is our right in the Congress to pass environmental laws that protect all Americans?

    As Senator Mikulski said, the role of the women Senators is very important. Women across America are counting on us to stand up, to ask the questions, and to get the answers. When we vote on this nomination, it must be an informed vote either yes because we believe he will protect our rights and freedoms or no because we have not been convinced.