By Molly K. Hooper - 01/25/11 12:38 AM EST
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told The Hill on Monday evening that he does not plan on attending the State of the Union address on Tuesday.
The conservative-leaning jurist said that he hasn’t “gone to the State of the Union in at least 10 years, and I’m not starting tomorrow night either.”
All eyes are focused on whether members of the Supreme Court intend to sit front and center at the State of the Union spectacle on Tuesday night after the president used last year’s speech to criticize one of their decisions. The criticism prompted Justice Samuel Alito to mouth the words “not true.”
Scalia spoke to The Hill briefly following an hour-long closed-door meeting with 30 to 40 House lawmakers on the Constitution’s separation of powers. The event was organized by Tea Party Caucus founder Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
Scalia said he told the members at the meeting to “follow the Constitution” but wouldn’t go into depth on his advice.
At least four Democrats attended the unusual briefing with Scalia. Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) and Mel Watt (N.C.) participated in the event alongside many GOP freshmen lawmakers and a handful of veteran GOP members.
McIntyre called Scalia “engaging and entertaining,” a common reaction from lawmakers who attended.
Lawmakers said a number of hot-button issues came up, as members asked Scalia’s views on the constitutionality of earmarks, the line-item veto and the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Scalia weighed in on issues that the Court has already ruled on, like the line-item veto and the EPA, but he would not discuss issues that could come before the justices in the future.
The challenge to last year’s healthcare law, which is expected to reach the Supreme Court, did not come up during the discussion, Bachmann said.
Schakowsky said the talk was “fascinating” and “perfectly suited for a bipartisan audience.”
“He started out by saying, ‘You’re not going to like some of the things I have to say about the ability of the Congress to limit the executive, et cetera,’” Schakowsky said.
She said Scalia also urged the members to “get a hard copy of the Federalist Papers and read them and underline them and dog-ear them.”
Lawmakers said Scalia didn’t say anything controversial or surprising, though he repeated his well-known position that the Constitution is not “a living document.”
Bachmann proclaimed herself very pleased with the event and said she would invite more justices to speak in the future.
“We’d be honored to have any of them to come,” she said.