- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Democrats took their opposition of Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Senate floor yesterday as Republicans rounded up the 60 votes they need to block any attempt to filibuster his nomination.

“The Democrats know that they can’t defeat this nomination,” Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said yesterday. “There won’t be a filibuster, in all likelihood. But what they can do, unfortunately, is smear the name and the reputation of this good man who has offered himself to public service.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and one of Judge Alito’s harshest critics, called the vote on the nomination “the vote of a generation.”

“The American people will have no second chance to decide whether this person should be trusted with such an awesome responsibility,” Mr. Kennedy said. “As their representatives, it is our responsibility to ask the tough questions and demand meaningful answers.”

Republicans, meanwhile, counted the 60 votes they need to prevent a filibuster. Party leaders expect at least five Democrats to join the chamber’s 55 Republicans in opposing a filibuster, although they expect to win fewer than 60 votes on final confirmation.

Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, has announced that he will support Judge Alito’s confirmation. Also, Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut have said they see no grounds for a filibuster.

Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat, who campaigned on a pledge not to participate in filibusters of judicial nominees, has declined to rule out supporting an Alito filibuster.

Mr. Salazar is part of the so-called “Gang of 14” senators who last year brokered an end to the judicial filibusters. Of those seven Democrats and seven Republicans, 11 say the Alito nomination is not an “extraordinary circumstance” under which a filibuster would be acceptable.

Democratic Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey have speculated that Democrats won’t filibuster the nomination. But the Democratic leadership in the Senate repeatedly has refused to say that a filibuster is no longer being considered.

However, not everybody who supports Judge Alito wants to avoid a filibuster.

“If they move forward with such a filibuster, my reaction is: Make my day,” Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, said yesterday. “We’ll enjoy pulling the constitutional trigger to allow Judge Alito a fair up-or-down vote.”

The “constitutional” route would require 51 votes to ban judicial filibusters.

With a filibuster looking unlikely, the only question remaining about Judge Alito’s Senate confirmation is when the full vote will occur.

Republicans said yesterday that they are hoping for a vote Monday. Democrats, however, are aiming for a vote as late as Tuesday so President Bush’s State of the Union address that day will downplay news of the confirmation.

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