- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s decision to oppose Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s nomination to the Supreme Court will hurt him in his primary campaign, party members say, and could kill the GOP’s chance of holding a seat in liberal Rhode Island.

“Judge Alito has outstanding legal credentials and an inspiring life story,” Mr. Chafee said yesterday. “However, I am greatly concerned about his philosophy on some important constitutional issues.”

In particular, Mr. Chafee said, he worries that Judge Alito would grant too much authority to the president, would not protect “women’s reproductive freedoms” and would not grant enough authority to Congress.

He is the only Republican senator to come out publicly against the Alito nomination, a decision likely to fuel further criticism from both his political flanks.

For example, Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, a likely conservative Republican primary opponent, called Mr. Chafee’s actions ineffectual and a disservice to the state.

“It’s disappointing, but not surprising,” Mr. Laffey said. “Rhode Island is not well-served by Senator Chafee’s rejection of this independent, highly qualified man for the Supreme Court, or by Senator Chafee’s inability to make a firm decision, which once again made him irrelevant to the process in the Senate.”

Meanwhile, the anti-tax Club for Growth is running commercials blasting Mr. Chafee for not taking a harder line against big government and high taxes.

Mr. Chafee is being criticized just as much from the left.

Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown, one of the Democrats running against Mr. Chafee, said the senator made a wishy-washy decision on Judge Alito.

“He’s playing both sides,” said Mr. Brown, explaining that Mr. Chafee sided with Republicans to end a filibuster of the judge, but then will vote against him.

Mr. Chafee has been among those targeted by the New York Times, which last week called for a filibuster of Judge Alito’s nomination.

“There is every reason to believe, based on his long paper trail and the evasive answers he gave at his hearings, that Judge Alito would quickly vote to overturn Roe v. Wade,” the Times wrote in an editorial last week.

Among Mr. Chafee’s biggest defenders are national Republicans who see the son of a Rhode Island legend as their only hope for holding a seat in one of the nation’s most-liberal states.

“Certainly the solution isn’t to allow Senator Chafee to be replaced by a liberal Democrat, who would currently be cooperating with Kerry and Kennedy’s latest antics,” said Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, referring to Massachusetts Democratic Sens. John Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy

Mr. Chafee’s spokesman, Stephen Hourahan, said Mr. Chafee made his decision based on principle. The senator “took a lot of time” and was simply “not comfortable” with Judge Alito’s answers at his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings.

Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report said that while Mr. Chafee faces his toughest political race, the Alito decision “won’t hurt him a bit.”

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