Monday, January 30, 2006

Senate to Decide on Ending Alito Debate

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer 7 minutes ago

Time is running out for liberals trying to block Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Senators planned to vote Monday on whether to shut down a filibuster attempt aimed at keeping the conservative judge off the nation's highest court.

The lone Republican opposing Alito refused to join the effort to block a Senate majority from confirming him. The final vote would come Tuesday on making him the nation's 110th justice, replacing retiring moderate Sandra Day O'Connor.

"How are we going to get anything done if we can't work together?" said Sen. Lincoln Chafee (news, bio, voting record), R-R.I., the only Republican to announce that he would vote against President Bush's latest Supreme Court pick.

Liberals and conservatives both expected Alito to easily reach the 60 votes needed on Monday to end any threat of a filibuster, but Massachusetts Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry and other Democrats kept up the fight.

"In Judge Alito we see patterns, patterns which demonstrate a hostility to the disadvantaged and the poor," said Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee.

Added Kennedy: "In case after case, Judge Alito's decisions demonstrate a systematic tilt toward powerful institutions and against individuals attempting to vindicate their rights. How can a clear record like that possibly justify a lifetime position on the Supreme Court?"

Republicans and some Democrats criticized the attempt to keep Alito from getting a confirmation vote on Tuesday before Bush's State of the Union address. If confirmed, Alito would replace the retiring O'Connor, who has been a swing vote on abortion rights, affirmative action, the death penalty and other issues.

"If this hyperpoliticization of this judicial confirmation process continues I fear in this moment we will institutionalize this behavior and someday we will be hard pressed not to employ political tests and tactics against the Supreme Court nominee of a Democratic president," said Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Added GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe (news, bio, voting record) of Maine, the only publicly undecided Republican on Alito's nomination: "I find it regrettable that there are those who are trying to resurrect a filibuster even as there is clearly nothing in the record that constitutes extraordinary circumstances."

Several Democrats sounded unhappy about having to vote whether to filibuster Alito, considering they don't have enough votes to successfully stop him. "There is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Alito, a 15-year veteran of the federal appeals court, has well over 50 votes for confirmation Tuesday.

At least 53 of the Republicans' 55-member majority and four Democrats — Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Ben Nelson of Nebraska — already publicly support his confirmation.

Chafee, independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, and the rest of the Democrats are expected to vote against Alito.


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