Transcript: Sen. Durbin on Alito Vote

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," January 31, 2006, that was edited for clarity.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-UTAH: When you have a man, the decency — who has the decency, the legal ability and the capacities that Judge Alito has treated this way, I think it's despicable.


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right. Fifty-eight senators voting to confirm Samuel Alito to the nation's highest court, but 42 did not, including my next guest, who says it's not a sign of divisiveness or being despicable, but a bad pick by a bad president.

Senator Richard Durbin, minority whip, joins us right now. Senator, thanks for coming.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, D-ILL.: Good to be with you.

CAVUTO: Is it bad blood there? To hear the senator talk about, it's just despicable and mean and nasty. And things are just out of control. Are they?

DURBIN: My friend Orrin Hatch is suffering from political amnesia.

He forget that, when President Clinton needed to put someone on the Supreme Court, he called the ranking Republican on the committee, the senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch. He asked him for some names. Orrin Hatch suggested Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That's who the president nominated.

That kind of conversation, that bipartisan consensus, is the way this process should have started. Unfortunately, with Judge Alito, that never happened.

CAVUTO: All right.

But would you argue, Senator, at least in Ginsburg's case, she is fairly liberal and she got virtually unanimous support?

DURBIN: Ask Orrin Hatch why he suggested her name and said that the Republicans would support her.

The point is that we were at a moment in history when presidents reached out to the other party and decided that these historic decisions just wouldn't be a take-it-or-leave-it approach. Judge Alito, unfortunately, went through a process where he was screened by the Federalist Society and other conservative groups, but there was no conversation about him before his name came up.

CAVUTO: All right.

Still, I don't want to go through old stuff, Senator. There was none of this examination of her record, to the extent there was with Judge Alito's.

DURBIN: Oh, you bet there was.

CAVUTO: But what was allowed to pass at the time was no-comments, essentially, right?

DURBIN: No, you are wrong. You are wrong, because, if you look at the actual record, there are some things no judicial nominee can answer.

But, if you don't stop and ask a person seeking a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land not only who they are, but what they believe, you are remiss in your responsibility in the Senate.

CAVUTO: All right. All I'm saying, Senator, is whether that same law was applied and the same treatment was applied to Ginsburg as it was to Alito. You say yes?

DURBIN: I think all nominees have to face these questions.

If they respect the process and answer the questions honestly, then senators on the committee will respect them as nominees. And that's the way it should be.

CAVUTO: Senator, let me ask you about what you expect to hear out of the president tonight. Among the things he is going to talk about is this idea that we have to have paid federal health savings accounts, something to that effect. Are you for that? And how much of a private role you think there should be?

DURBIN: If you liked privatizing Social Security, you are just going to love health savings accounts.

And if you think letting special interest groups write the Medicare prescription drug program was the right way to go, you are going to love health savings accounts. This was the brainchild of the Golden Rule Insurance Company back in the Gingrich era. The Golden Rule Insurance Company has given $36 million to the Republican Party over the last 12 years.

That's why they are being proposed. This is not good policy. We can have private sector health insurance, but we shouldn't be buying on to these schemes that haven't been well vetted and well thought out.

CAVUTO: Senator, I know there was a temporary extension, I believe, of the Patriot Act, or at least the 16 provisions that could have expired on Friday, if I'm not mistaken. Where does this stand right now?

DURBIN: Senator Reid came to the floor of the Senate this morning. And we have spoken to Senator Frist about it.

We are prepared for an extension of the Patriot Act, while we negotiate two or three provisions that we are still working on. And let me salute Senator John Sununu, Republican senator from New Hampshire. He has been working night and day to find a bipartisan answer to this.

We want to keep the Patriot Act. We want to resolve two or three sections that we believe infringe on personal freedom. And I think we can do it, if we work in good faith.

CAVUTO: All right, Senator, thank you very much. Good having you, Senator Richard Durbin.

DURBIN: Thank you very much, Neil.

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