Saturday, January 21, 2006

Frist calls Alito Democrats' "nightmare"

Frist calls Alito Democrats' "nightmare"

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told Republican Party activists on Friday night that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito was the "worst nightmare of liberal Democrats."

Frist, a Tennessee Republican, made the remark to fellow Republicans during a private tour he gave them of the Senate chamber when the Senate was not in session.

Frist was not available for comment following his remarks.

Asked about the senator's remark, Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said that Alito "is a thoughtful mainstream conservative jurist who is well respected by his peers, by Democrats and Republicans alike."

Stevenson added, "There are liberals, many of them represented by the outside groups, who will do anything to kill any nominee put forward by this administration."

Democrats have expressed concerns the conservative Alito would push the nation's highest court to the right in areas such as abortion rights, civil rights and presidential powers.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Tuesday on the Alito nomination and the full Senate intends to debate it next week.

Three top Democrats announced this week they would vote against sending Alito to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. They are Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Dick Durbin of Illinois.

No Democrat so far has said he or she would try to block a Senate floor vote on Alito through a procedure known as a filibuster.

The Republican National Committee was holding a winter meeting in Washington this week, and the 50 or so party activists from across the United States were invited by Frist to tour the Senate chamber.