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Democratic senators on Wednesday stepped up their attacks on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr., trying to find holes in his explanation for his membership in a conservative Princeton alumni group and trying to pin Alito down on whether he still believes there was no constitutional right to an abortion. It was the third day of hearings for the 55-year-old judge, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Alito maintained the cautious monotone he displayed the day before, when the 18 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee began their interrogation, calmly answering questions that, in some cases, had been asked three and four times before. Alito was pushed repeatedly by Democrats, who unsuccessfully tried to get him on the record about his view of the Constitution and whether it protects the right to an abortion. Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, the first Democrat to question Alito on Wednesday, asked him why he could assert the constitutionality of Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down racially enforced school segregation, and Griswold v. Connecticut, which established the right to marital privacy, but not the right to an abortion. The Brown decision, said Alito, was based on the 14th Amendment, while Griswold was based on that amendment’s due process clause, and, he added, that particular holding “is not likely to come before the 3rd Circuit [and] not likely to come before the Supreme Court.” Abortion issues, he said, are involved in litigation “at all levels.” As he did on Tuesday, Alito acknowledged that a comment in a 1985 job application � that he was “particularly proud” of his contributions to cases in the solicitor general’s office which argued that the “constitution does not protect a right to an abortion” � was an accurate statement 20 years ago. “That is a true expression of my views at the time from my vantage point of an attorney in the solicitor general’s office,” he told Durbin. Alito refused to say what his opinion on the matter is today, although he noted that abortion case law had changed greatly over the past 30 years. And he repeated his promise to follow the pattern he laid out in Tuesday’s testimony: to follow stare decisis and, if the case goes beyond that, to “approach that the way I approach every legal issue.” Alito conceded that controlling law on the abortion issue had changed over the years and that any current analysis of the issue would have to take into account the full line of cases. “It’s a precedent now on the book for several decades,” he said. “It’s been challenged and reaffirmed.” Perhaps the morning’s biggest controversy, however, concerned 14 words that Alito included on the same 1985 application for a job in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, in which he said that he had been a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, a body Alito called “a conservative alumni group.” Alito repeated his claim that he had “racked his brain” and could not remember why he had joined the group, which had publicly bemoaned the fact that Princeton University was admitting too many minorities and women. The best explanation he could offer, he said, was his displeasure at the university’s attitude toward ROTC, which had been banned at one point but had returned to the campus before Alito graduated in 1972. Alito had been a member of an ROTC unit. Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy was incredulous that Alito had no recollection of his membership in the group. And in the morning’s most dramatic moment, Kennedy produced several large charts with excerpts from the alumni group’s magazine. “Everywhere one turns, blacks and hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they’re black and hispanic,” read one excerpt. “Did you read this article?” Kennedy asked Alito. “I disagree with all of that,” responded Alito, raising his modulated tone for perhaps the first time. “I would never endorse that. I never have endorsed that. If I thought that’s what the organization stood for, I never would have joined.” The matter led to a brief but heated argument between Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Kennedy, who said he’d sent Specter a letter asking the committee to subpoena the group’s records from William Rusher, a former leader of the Princeton alumni association. “We’re entitled to this information,” said Kennedy, who said he had mailed Specter the request some weeks earlier and could not understand why Specter had not responded to it. “I take umbrage at your telling me what I received,” said Specter, somewhat sharply. “There’s a big difference in what’s mailed and what’s received. . . . We’re in the middle of a round of hearings. This is the first time you have personally called it to my attention, and I will consider it in due course,” Specter added, before slamming the gavel down and continuing the proceedings. Specter said the records would be forthcoming. The records are currently being held at the Library of Congress. After the exchange between Kennedy and Specter, staffers from both parties headed to the library to review them. “He knew what he was saying, he knew what he was writing,” said Kennedy of Alito, during a break in the hearing. “But we don’t.”

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