Democratic critics threaten to block Alito vote


Published: Friday, January 27, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 9:11 p.m.
WASHINGTON - Die-hard Democratic critics of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito threatened on Thursday to block a vote on his confirmation, and Republicans countered with a move designed to force his approval by early next week.
"It is time to establish an end point" in the debate over President Bush's selection to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said he and other Democrats had refused to agree to a timetable for ending debate. "There's some division in our caucus," he conceded.
Democratic Leader Harry Reid signaled as much in remarks on the Senate floor. He offered no support for Kennedy, John Kerry and others whose filibuster represents a last stand against Alito's confirmation.
"There's been adequate time for people to debate," Reid said.
Alito, 55 and a 15-year veteran of the federal appeals court, has well over 50 votes for confirmation. He gained the support of Democrats Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia during the day, and has the backing of at least 52 of the Senate's 55 Republicans.
The Senate will vote Monday on cutting off debate. If Alito's supporters get 60 votes in the 100-member body, the confirmation vote will follow on Tuesday.
White House spokesman Stephen Schmidt predicted the Republicans would easily win. "More than 60 senators have signaled their intentions to vote against the filibuster and give Judge Alito the up-or-down vote that he deserves," he said.
Frist said he had been unable to win a commitment from all senators on a time for a final vote. Instead, he set the stage for cutting off debate Monday with what is known as a cloture vote.
Democrats' concern over Alito's nomination has been heightened because he would replace O'Connor, who has been the swing vote on 5-4 rulings that maintained abortion rights, preserved affirmative action and limited the application of the death penalty.
Conservatives agree that Alito could push the court to the right, but they welcome the prospect.
Kennedy said, "The nominee is deficient in his commitment . . . to individual rights, individual liberties, women's rights and racial equality."
The senator conceded he faced an "uphill climb" in the effort to block confirmation but said it was possible.
Asked to name other Democrats siding with him, he cited Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, as well as Paul Sarbanes of Maryland and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, opposes Alito's confirmation but has not yet decided whether to support the filibuster, an aide said.
President Bush earlier in the day called for the Senate to confirm his nominee.
Alito "understands the role of a judge is not to advance a personal and political agenda," Bush said at the White House. "He is a decent man."
Democrats contended anew that Alito's confirmation would put individual rights and liberties in danger. Dianne Feinstein of California, the only woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Alito would join Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia in the court's conservative wing and apply "originalist" interpretations to court decisions.
"If an originalist analysis was applied to the Fourteenth Amendment, women would not be provided equal protection under the Constitution, interracial marriages could be outlawed, schools could still be segregated and the principle of one man, one vote would not govern the way we elect our representatives," Feinstein said.
Nelson, Byrd and Johnson are the only Democrats to express support for Alito so far.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top