- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2005

Democrats said yesterday that Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s confirmation is not guaranteed as senators kept the focus on a 20-year-old document in which the Supreme Court nominee asserted that the Constitution “does not protect a right to an abortion.”

“Even at this early stage, I have a number of significant concerns,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday.

Among the Nevada Democrat’s concerns were that Democrats weren’t consulted on the nomination, as well as Judge Alito’s 20-year-old claim to be a conservative.

Judge Alito’s job-application essay “may explain why the extreme right wing is popping champagne corks,” Mr. Reid said. “We learned of the 1985 memo in which he said, ‘I am and always have been a conservative.’”

Two other top Democrats also registered their dismay with the Alito nomination on the Senate floor yesterday, kicking off the first concerted effort by leadership to sow doubts about the nomination.

“Anyone who thinks that this nomination is a foregone conclusion is sadly mistaken,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “There are too many questions still to be answered.”

Mr. Schumer also mentioned the job application, first reported this week by The Washington Times.

“He wrote, among other things, that he was particularly proud of his work to advance the position that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion,” he said. “That statement cannot be dismissed as a personal view that will not affect how Judge Alito will approach the legal issue.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and member of the committee, said, “Many of us have serious reservations about the Alito nomination.”

Republicans charged that the speeches were choreographed to mollify leaders of the liberal interest groups who will meet today with Mr. Reid and other Democrats to discuss their stated opposition to the Alito nomination.

“Harry Reid: Puppet Politician” read the headline of a press release by the Republican National Committee. “Minority Leader Harry Reid once again caters to his liberal special-interest allies by attacking Judge Alito.”

Reid spokesman Jim Manley dismissed the accusation, saying that today’s meeting originally had been scheduled for earlier this week.

“So, that is just categorically false and ridiculous,” he said.

In recent weeks, liberal activists and some Democrats have quietly grumbled that Democratic leaders had not made a serious effort to undermine the nomination.

Yesterday’s speeches seemed to be aimed at allaying fears that the nomination was a done deal.

In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said he hopes senators won’t “prejudge Judge Alito.”

“A lot of things have happened since 1985,” the Pennsylvania Republican said, referring to Judge Alito’s job application to become deputy assistant to the attorney general under President Reagan. “For one thing, Judge Alito has said that he believes in a right of privacy in the Constitution.”

Meanwhile, Judge Alito continued his private meetings with senators yesterday.

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican who is pro-choice, said she remained undecided after meeting with the nominee yesterday.

“He doesn’t deny the fact that he obviously stated [his opposition to abortion] on the application,” she said. “The question is how he would approach any of the cases coming before the court regarding abortion.”

She said Judge Alito agreed with the theory that even if a case had been wrongly decided, deference should be granted to any case that has become “embedded as part of national culture.”

Mrs. Snowe was asked whether she would oppose Judge Alito if she determined that he would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion rights.

“Yeah,” she responded. “That would be a serious issue for me.”

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