[JURIST] Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told US Supreme Court nominee John Roberts in a letter Monday that he intends to question him at upcoming confirmation hearings on the extent of Congress's power, specifically citing two recent cases where the Supreme Court ruled that Congress had overstepped its bounds. In US v. Lopez (1995) [opinion] and US v. Morrison (2000) [opinion], the Court rejected Congress' assertion that the Commerce Clause [Wikipedia backgrounder] allowed them to regulate gun possession near schools or enact a civil remedy for gender-based violence, respectively. Democrats say the letter should serve as an open door for both sides to question Roberts about specific cases. AP has more.
3:31 PM ET – The American Constitution Society has now posted the text of Senator Specter's letter to Roberts. After detailing what Specter calls "the Court's denigrating and, really, disrespectful statements about Congress' competence" in the Lopez and Morrison decisions, Specter asks four specific questions of Roberts that will be asked at the confirmation hearing:
(1) Is there any real justification for the Court's denigrating Congress' "method of reasoning" in our constitutional structure of separation of power where the elected Congress has the authority to decide public policy on issues such as gender-based violence effecting interstate commerce?"
(2) Is there any possible basis for the Court's characterization of "uniquely judicial competence" implicitly criticizing a lesser quality of Congressional competence?
(3) Do you agree with Justice Harlan's jurisprudence concerning legislation on the "rational basis" test as embraced by the dissent contrasted with the majority opinion?
(4) What is your thinking on the jurisprudence of U.S. v. Lopez and U.S. v. Morrison which overturned almost 60 years of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause?
Read the complete letter [PDF text].