- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Democratic member of the Senate “Gang of 14” raised strong doubts yesterday that he will support the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court and said the chance of a filibuster remains open.

“I have concerns about Judge Alito — they are strong concerns,” Sen. Ken Salazar, a Colorado Democrat who helped lift his party’s filibusters against President Bush’s judicial nominees, said after meeting with Judge Alito. “I do not yet know whether I will be able to support his confirmation.”

The comments are the most negative of any of the 14 senators who brokered the deal to end judicial filibusters earlier this year and can decide whether any nominees can be filibustered successfully.

Mr. Salazar issued his appraisal as the ad war over the nomination escalates and warnings from Democrat leaders that Judge Alito still faces a rough road to confirmation, which might lead to a filibuster.

Mr. Salazar said he doesn’t “anticipate” a filibuster, an option that many on Capitol Hill thought had essentially been ruled out. But he also said the filibuster remains an option and left open the prospect that he might support one.

“It’s an option out there,” he said. “I’m not saying whether I would be participating in one or not. I have never participated in one. I don’t want to participate in one.”

If Mr. Salazar supports a filibuster, it would be a reversal from a campaign pledge he made last year that he would not participate in Democrat filibusters against judicial nominees, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

Mr. Salazar spoke after an hourlong private meeting with Judge Alito. Reporters waited outside his Capitol Hill office and the senator emerged wearing black cowboy boots, a rawhide bolo tie, a frilly shirt with pearl snaps and an enormous white cowboy hat.

He said he had “grave concern” about a job application Judge Alito wrote 20 years ago, first reported in The Washington Times, in which the judge said abortion is not a right protected by the Constitution and that ethnic and racial quotas are illegal.

“I am troubled when I looked at the memo and the fact that I don’t think that his views have changed at all, frankly, in the last 20 years,” he said. “I am concerned that, frankly, the court would swing so far to the right, we can set back the progress of the country.”

Mr. Salazar said he feared that Judge Alito, who now sits on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, would be a deciding vote against affirmative action at colleges and universities.

“Frankly, I remain very concerned about whether or not he really understands the importance of an inclusive America,” Mr. Salazar said.

The senator said Judge Alito was wrong when he ruled that a Pennsylvania law requiring most married women to notify their husbands before aborting was not unconstitutional. Though the Supreme Court disagreed with Judge Alito, polls show 70 percent of Americans support such laws.

Asked whether he personally opposed spousal notification laws, Mr. Salazar paused for a moment before saying that the high court should strike down such laws as unconstitutional.

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