Republicans to
give Alito committee victory

Supreme Court
nominee Samuel Alito takes his first step toward the high
court with a preordained Senate Judiciary Committee victory
Tuesday, but the strength of opposition among panel
Democrats may forecast his margin of victory in the
full Senate.
The GOP-controlled committee was advancing the
nomination of Alito, President Bush's pick to replace
retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor, on Tuesday. All
10 Republican senators already have announced their support
for the conservative judge, leaving the eight Democrats with
no way to stop the committee from giving him a
positive report.
"You don't have to worry about him in the
committee," Bush said at Kansas State University on
Monday. He called Alito "a very, very smart, capable
man. When you talk to Sam Alito, you think 'Smart judge.' "
But Alito's liberal critics are worried that
Alito may defer too much to Bush and swing the court
to the Right. They fear his replacement of O'Connor
will bring conservatives a decisive fifth vote on cases
involving abortion, affirmative action, and the death penalty.
A handful of the country's most powerful gay
rights groups oppose Alito, including the National Gay
and Lesbian Task Force; Human Rights Campaign;
National Center for Lesbian Rights; Parents, Families, and
Friends of Lesbians and Gays; and Lambda Legal. All
have said they are not convinced that Alito will
enforce the principles of equal protection and due process.
Half of the committee's eight
Democrats—Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Edward
Kennedy of Massachusetts, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and
Dianne Feinstein of California—have announced
their opposition to his nomination. Many expect the
other four—Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin,
Joseph Biden of Delaware, and Charles Schumer of New
York—to join them.
After the committee votes, Alito's nomination
goes to the full Senate for a final vote as early as
this week. Republicans want Alito on the Supreme Court
before Bush gives his State of the Union address on January 31.
In recent judicial battles, a 10–8 party
line vote would be the first sign of the possibility
of a Democratic-led filibuster. But Democrats are not
expected to try that with Alito, a former federal prosecutor
and lawyer for the Reagan administration who parried
sharp Democratic attacks on his judicial record and
personal credibility without a major stumble during
his confirmation hearings earlier this month. Democrats are
expected, however, to try to persuade as many senators in
their party to vote against him as possible on the
Senate floor.
Critics of Alito plan to protest and march this
week to try to turn votes against the 55-year-old
judge, who is now on the third U.S. circuit court of
appeals. (AP,

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