Friday, January 20, 2006

Top Senate Democrats oppose Alito nomination

Yahoo! News
Top Senate Democrats oppose Alito nomination
By Thomas Ferraro

Three top Senate Democrats said on Thursday they would vote against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito because they feared he would not provide an effective check on what they described as President George W. Bush's bid for expanded power.

While Alito appeared headed toward confirmation by the Republican-led Senate, Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts made the case against Bush's 55-year-old conservative candidate.

In separate speeches, they expressed concern that if confirmed, Alito would push the nation's highest court to the right in such areas as abortion rights and civil rights as well as presidential powers.

Even if Democrats cannot stop Alito from becoming a Supreme Court Justice, they want to set the stage to make him an issue in the November congressional elections, along with Bush's recently disclosed program to eavesdrop on some telephone calls without warrants as part of his war against terrorism.

"I will not lend my support to an effort by this president to move the Supreme Court and the law radically to the right," said Leahy, top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, which plans to vote on Alito's nomination on Tuesday and send it to the full Senate.

"There is no reason to believe that Judge Alito will serve as an effective check and balance on government intrusion," Leahy said in a speech. "Indeed, his record suggests otherwise."

Durbin, the assistant Senate Democratic leader, said, "Based on his record, I'm concerned that Judge Alito will not be willing to stand up to a president who is determined to seize too much power over our personal lives."

In a speech in Chicago, Durbin also said, "In case after case, he has voted -- often as the lone dissenter on his court -- against the dispossessed, the poor and the powerless."

Kennedy, the leading liberal voice in Congress, declared his opposition to Alito in a speech, saying, "His record just does not show a judge who is committed to equal justice under law."


If confirmed, Alito would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate conservative who often has been the swing vote on the nine-member court on social issues.

At his confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee last week, Alito won praise from Republicans, who noted he received the American Bar Association's top rating for a seat on the high court based on his qualifications, integrity and judicial temperament.

But Alito repeatedly frustrated Democrats.

Democrats were unable to secure a commitment from Alito that if confirmed to the Supreme Court he would uphold its 1973 decision that legalized abortion. He had opposed abortion while a Reagan administration lawyer two decades ago.

Democrats also wrestled with Alito over his views of presidential powers, which they argued were overly broad. Alito deflected questions about the legality of the administration's warrantless eavesdropping on Americans but did say no president was above the law.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn (news, bio, voting record) of Texas said, "Despite the ongoing attacks from the hard left and their allies in the Senate, Judge Alito should be, and will be confirmed.... Judge Alito earned bipartisan support."

So far, just one of the Senate's 44 Democrats, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, has announced he will vote for Alito. All but about a half dozen others appear certain to oppose him.

None have threatened a filibuster since they do not appear to have the votes to sustain such a procedural roadblock in the 100-member Senate.