- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A broad, bipartisan majority in the Senate easily thwarted an effort yesterday by Democrats to lodge a filibuster against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The 72-25 vote cleared the way for the New Jersey native to be confirmed today as the 110th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“A bipartisan majority of senators embraced the principle of a fair, up-or-down vote for judicial nominees and rejected partisan obstruction,” Majority Leader Bill Frist said. “This vote marks another step forward in restoring fairness to the judicial nominations process.”

“Judge Alito is extraordinarily well-qualified to serve on our nation’s highest court, and America is fortunate that this good and humble man is willing to serve,” President Bush said in a statement after the vote. “I look forward to the Senate voting to confirm Sam Alito.”

Nineteen Democrats joined 53 Republicans to turn back the parliamentary maneuver aimed at denying Judge Alito a final vote on the Senate floor. No Republican supported the filibuster attempt.

Among those voting to filibuster the nomination were Democrat Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, who represent Judge Alito’s home state of New Jersey.

Mr. Lautenberg said he listened to Judge Alito’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month “with the faces of my grandchildren in my mind.”

“I often hear many concerns from my constituents about how powerless they feel in the faces of insurance companies that are often indifferent to their plight or as an employee unfairly treated in the workplace,” he said. “At the hearings, it was clear that Judge Alito almost always lined up against the little guy and with the big corporations and government.”

Yesterday’s vote was the first cast by Mr. Menendez, who will finish the unexpired term of Gov. Jon Corzine. That vote has already been used against Mr. Menendez, who faces an election in November against a very popular Republican.

“Bob Menendez gave what amounted to be his inauguration speech today on the floor of the United States Senate with an intellectually dishonest attack against a fellow New Jerseyan,” said Dan Ronayne, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Menendez’s deceitful smears on a good man from his home state are going to … cost him votes in November.”

Outside New Jersey, the Democratic caucus, which includes one independent, was deeply divided.

“They barely won in their own caucus,” chortled one senior Republican aide after the vote that split the caucus 25-19.

Liberal activists were devastated by the vote.

“This is a sad day that augers ill for women’s most fundamental rights and freedoms,” said Marcia D. Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center. “The Senate’s decision to end debate on this nomination means that Samuel Alito will replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. The country will be living with the consequences of this decision for generations to come.”

A group of somber activists opposed to Judge Alito’s nomination gathered in a room off the Senate chamber during yesterday’s vote. Veteran pro-choice activist Kate Michelman, Ralph G. Neas of People for the American Way and Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights were all there.

Nan Aron of Alliance for Justice said she was grateful for “all the senators who stood on principle” and supported the filibuster attempt.

“We are proud that they went the extra mile to underscore how profoundly the Alito nomination will change the Supreme Court.”

Once it was clear that the filibuster would fail, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who has led the filibuster fight, ambled out of the chamber and into the crowd, which erupted into sustained applause.

“Thank you, Senator Kennedy,” Ms. Aron said earnestly.

“We’ll keep battling along,” said Mr. Kennedy, barely audible over the applause. “We’ll keep battling along.”

With eyes that seemed to glisten, Mr. Neas looked at Mr. Kennedy and saluted him twice.

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