Archive for Friday, January 13, 2006

Alito likely to receive Senate OK

Democrats doubt ability to block Supreme Court nomination

January 13, 2006

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— Samuel Alito coasted toward confirmation as the 110th Supreme Court justice Thursday, ending 18 grueling hours of Senate interrogation with Democrats showing little appetite for a last-ditch filibuster attempt on the Senate floor.

"I am my own person, with whatever abilities I have and whatever limitations I have," Alito declared as he wrapped up his final public appearance before senators begin voting on his nomination to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Democrats contend the former Reagan administration lawyer is likely to swing the court to the right in replacing the centrist O'Connor, who has provided decisive votes on such important issues as abortion, capital punishment and affirmative action.

Judiciary Committee senators are scheduled to meet Tuesday to begin debating the 55-year-old federal judge's nomination. Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., had wanted a committee vote then, but Democrats have talked of seeking a delay.

At the same time, Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of the committee and his party's second-ranking leader, suggested Democrats would not attempt to filibuster, which would require Republicans to gain 60 votes to advance the nomination. "When you consider the numbers involved, it is unlikely," he said.

With the hearings ending, interest groups rushed new television commercials to the airwaves.

Progress for America, which has close ties to the White House, plans to spend $250,000 to air a national ad beginning today that accuses Democrats of "partisan attacks" on Alito at the hearings.

IndependentCourt.org said it intended to counter with a commercial of its own.

Chances of a nomination-crippling filibuster seemed to dim as the day went on, with two members of the "Gang of 14" - centrist senators who brokered a deal last year to avoid a filibuster showdown over judges - saying Alito's nomination does not deserve one.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, "does not believe that Judge Alito warrants a filibuster," spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier said.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said, "So far I have seen nothing during my interview with the nominee, the background materials that have been produced or through the committee process that I would consider a disqualifying issue against Judge Alito."

Democrats argue that Alito, in 15 years as an appellate judge, has built a conservative record that foretells his Supreme Court stance. But they face an uphill battle in finding enough votes to filibuster his nomination - the only way they can stop him.

It takes 41 votes to sustain a filibuster, and there are 44 Democrats and one Democratic-leaning independent. Several Democrats, including Nelson and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, already have said they don't think a filibuster is warranted.

Several committee Democrats made it clear they were not inclined to vote for Alito, including Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles Schumer of New York.

After four days of hearings, there are "even more questions about Judge Alito's commitment to the fairness and equality for all," Kennedy said.

Democrats repeatedly attacked Alito's decisions as a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and his writings while a lawyer for the Reagan administration - including a 1985 statement saying the Constitution did not protect the right to an abortion - and they highlighted his membership in an organization that discouraged the admission of women and minorities at Princeton University.

"The evidence before us makes it hard for us to vote yes," said Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

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