Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Tuesday she will oppose Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts, saying she is concerned that Roberts did not make clear his views on an individual's right to privacy.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Tuesday she will oppose Chief Justice-nominee John Roberts, saying she is concerned that Roberts did not make clear his views on an individual’s right to privacy.
Cantwell, who met with Roberts on Monday night at her Senate office, said in a speech on the Senate floor that Roberts failed to address her concerns about privacy — and abortion rights — despite repeated questions.
“I have some concerns about Judge Roberts’ views on the right to privacy” and whether Roberts “will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose” an abortion, Cantwell said.
Roberts said during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings that he believed the Constitution provides a right to privacy — the legal concept underpinning the Roe v. Wade decision upholding a woman’s right to an abortion.
But Roberts declined to say whether he thought privacy rights extend to abortion. Many abortion opponents believe they do not.
“The exact scope of it, with respect to the beginning of life and the end of life, those are issues that are coming before the court in both respects, and I don’t think that I should go further,” Roberts told Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in one typical response.
Cantwell called Roberts’ answers inadequate, and cited polls showing a majority of Americans wanted Roberts to answer questions about past Supreme Court cases.
“I would hope that any nominee to the Supreme Court would understand how important the privacy rights are — not just in Washington state but throughout the country,” she said.
The issue of privacy will only grow in importance as technology improves and more information about individuals becomes available, said Cantwell, who has pushed for tougher laws combatting identity theft and other technological issues.
Roberts, who has drawn fire from some Democrats for his conservative views on women’s issues and civil rights, is expected to win easy confirmation from the Senate. More than 70 senators — including all 55 Republicans — have said they will vote for the a 50-year-old U.S. Appeals Court judge as the replacement for William H. Rehnquist, who died earlier this month.
Cantwell, in her Senate speech, said she also was concerned about Roberts’ views on the environment. Cantwell cited a dissenting opinion Roberts wrote in a 2003 case on whether a shopping mall developer should be forced to make provisions for a rare California toad.
Noting that the federal government’s authority was based on its regulation of interstate commerce, Roberts wondered why the Interior Department should be “regulating the taking of a hapless toad that, for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California.”
Noting that many environmental laws are based on government’s constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, Cantwell said Roberts’ opinion raised questions about how he might view the constitutionality of important protections under the Endangered Species Act.
“Congress has authority to protect, I believe, our most important species,” Cantwell said.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has also met with Roberts and is reading Judiciary Committee testimony but has not decided whether to support him, spokeswoman Alex Glass said.