Washington Senate Democrats are considering a plan that could delay a committee vote on Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination for at least a week, slowing what could have been a quick confirmation for President Bush's pick to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter had hoped to hold a committee vote on Alito's nomination Jan. 17, a little more than a week from Monday's start of the federal appellate judge's confirmation hearings.
Senate leadership aides said Thursday that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., that Democrats will invoke their right to hold the Alito committee vote over for one week. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because the move had not been announced yet.
Democrats insisted that a final decision has not been made. "We want to see how the hearing goes, procedurally and substantially, before allowing them to accelerate the vote for a week," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Judiciary Committee. "That's what we've always said."
"No decision has been made," Reid spokesman Jim Manley added.
The longer a confirmation process takes, the more difficult it can get for a nominee because his opponents have more time to build momentum against the candidate.
Frist had been pushing for a Jan. 20 confirmation vote for Alito in the full Senate. The date of the Senate's confirmation vote would have to be delayed if the Democrats follow through on their plan to delay.
"Procedural gimmicks and partisan tricks will not stop the confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court, no matter how much extremist elements of the Democratic Party wish it so," a Frist spokesman said.
The move is the latest in a tactical battle between Republicans and Democrats over Alito's nomination. The longtime conservative lawyer and judge will face the Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearings to become the 110th Supreme Court justice.