Obama Scolds the Supreme Court, to the Annoyance of One Justice
The president had taken the unusual step of scolding the high court in his State of the Union address Wednesday. "With all due deference to the separation of powers," he said, the court last week "reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections."
Alito made a dismissive face, shook his head repeatedly and appeared to mouth the words "not true" or possibly "simply not true."
A reliable conservative appointed to the court by Republican President George W. Bush, Alito was in the majority in the 5-4 ruling.
Senate Democratic leaders sitting immediately behind Alito and other members of the high court rose and clapped loudly in their direction, with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., leaning slightly forward with the most enthusiastic applause.
The court did upend a 100-year trend that had imposed greater limitations on corporate political activity. Specifically, the court, in a 5-4 decision, said corporations and unions could spend freely from their treasuries to run political ads for or against specific candidates.
In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the court's majority "would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans."
Obama said corporations can "spend without limit in our elections." However, corporations and unions are still prohibited from contributing directly to politicians.
Alito's head-shaking, though only two rows directly in front of Obama, wasn't the "You lie!" moment that brought the president's last speech to Congress to a screeching halt. In fact, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who shouted it, was stonefaced throughout Obama's latest speech, even rising a few times to applaud.