08/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

GOP Demands More Sotomayor Docs, Despite Limiting Disclosure With Alito

Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination for the Supreme Court has hit a small snag as high-ranking Republicans in the Senate are demanding that more information be provided about her past work and associations.

The complaints are common fare for presidential nominations -- a political tactic designed to draw out the nomination process in hopes that more dirt can be found. In some instances, there is a compelling public interest in drawing out that additional information.

That said, it's worth looking back a few years to recall just how disinterested the Bush White House and GOP Senators were in complete disclosure when it came to a Supreme Court nominee of their own.

In late 2005 and early 2006, Democrats in the Senate were demanding that Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito provide additional material pertaining to his service at the Office of the Solicitor General. Then ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wrote two separate letters to the Department of Justice requesting those files. His efforts were rebuffed.

"Judge Alito and the Department have already provided to the Committee a voluminous set of documents relating to Judge Alito's decades of public service," read the response from then Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella. "Judge Alito has sat on the federal appellate bench for more than 15 years, and his decisions in that capacity represent the best evidence of his judicial philosophy and of the manner in which he approaches judicial decision-making."

DOJ To Leahy Full -

As the remarks suggest, it was the position of the Bush White House and its Justice Department that the Senate had sufficient material by which to assess Alito's resume. Moschella would go on to note that the Judiciary Committee had been "provided with a list of the more than 1,000 published decisions issued by panels on which Judge Alito sat, including the more than 340 opinions Judge Alito wrote." There were, in addition, concerns expressed that revealing more information from Alito's tenure at the Office of Solicitor General would compromise that Department's ability "to litigate cases effectively on behalf of the United States."

That said, calls for more material from Alito's background, whether they pertained to his work at OSG or on other issues were more often than not dismissed as pure politics by the administration's defenders. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex) said that demands for an explanation as to why Alito had not released information about the work he did in the 1980s to undercut Roe v. Wade were "manufactured hysteria." Nearly a month later, almost 300 additional documents from Alito's time at Justice Department -- which hadn't been previously made public -- were finally released.

With Sotomayor, the current complaint by GOP lawmakers is that she has revealed too little information with regard to her affiliation with the Puerto Rico Legal Defense Fund. The civil rights organization turned over more documents on Tuesday but Republicans on Judiciary and in leadership contend that it is just the tip of the iceberg.

"I think the key is just to finish the job," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Fox News Sunday. "For example, just a day or so ago, we discovered that there are 300 boxes of additional material that has just been discovered from her time working with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense [and Education] Fund ... The committee needs to have access to that material and time to work through it so we don't -- so we know all the facts before we vote on a person who's up for a lifetime job."

On Thursday, the White House hit back, with the president's chief counsel, Greg Craig, telling the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund records had no relevance to Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination.

"Perhaps there is confusion about Judge Sotomayor's role with PRLDEF, and that confusion may account for your unusual interest," Craig wrote in a letter to Sessions. "Let me be clear: On Judge Sotomayor's behalf, we submitted all documents the committee requested of her, and we did so in record time."

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