Monday, November 7, 2005

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. said yesterday that he expects an up-or-down vote by the full Senate on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., without the parliamentary blockades that Democrats used against 10 of President Bush’s appellate court nominees.

The Delaware senator and longtime Senate Judiciary Committee member becomes the latest Democrat to indicate that a filibuster of the judge’s nomination is unlikely, although he spoke even as one of the nation’s leading liberal groups began its air war against Judge Alito.

Asked whether Democrats would commit to the up-or-down vote, Mr. Biden said on ABC’s “This Week”: “Well, my instinct is we should commit.”

He cautioned that nothing could be certain “until the bulk of us” Democrats have met Judge Alito, “but I think the probability is that [a vote] will happen.”

Mr. Biden, whose state is in the 3rd U.S. Circuit, where Judge Alito has served for 15 years, said he doesn’t know whether he will support the nominee, although he added that while Judge Alito is conservative, he has heard mainly good things about the judge.

But People for the American Way doesn’t need more information to oppose Judge Alito. The liberal group had long ago studied Judge Alito’s record and denounced him the day he was nominated.

Yesterday, the group began airing its first ad on the nomination, which debuted during NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

But instead of attacking Judge Alito directly, it focuses on the failed nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers, who was withdrawn because of dissatisfaction by conservatives.

“George Bush’s presidency is in trouble, and he’ll do anything to save it, even giving the radical right wing the power to choose who sits on the Supreme Court,” the announcer says.

“First, the right wing vetoed Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O’Connor,” the voice continues. “Now Bush has named their hand-picked candidate, Samuel Alito, threatening rights and freedoms that Justice O’Connor protected.”

The ad ends by telling viewers to contact their senators and telling them “the court belongs to all of America — not to the radical right.”

PFAW declined to say how much the group is spending on the ad, but said it is running in targeted local markets as well as on national cable channels.

Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said yesterday that the concerns of Democrats and liberals are based on a wide variety of issues.

“Some of the opinions that he’s handed down are controversial decisions: deciding that the Family and Medical Leave Act did not apply to state employees; authorizing a strip search in a situation involving a mother and her 10-year-old daughter; questions involving the rights of privacy,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a member of the so-called “Gang of 14” that holds the balance of power on judicial confirmations, said a large number of Republicans “are favorably disposed.”

“I’m very favorably disposed, but the important thing is the Democrats,” he said.

He told “Fox News Sunday” that he hasn’t heard any rumblings of a Democratic filibuster.

“So far, I have not seen any significant concern that might lead to filibusters, but they’re certainly reserving all their options, and I think that’s appropriate,” Mr. McCain said.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week” that he has no “qualms” with the nominee unless something “comes out of nowhere.”

“He’s a well-known commodity here,” he said. “I will vote for him enthusiastically.”

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and Judiciary Committee member, suggested that Democrats have no right to oppose Judge Alito on ideological grounds.

“Ideology should not be the determination,” Mr. Hatch said. “It ought to be the practical application of the laws that exist. In this case, you’d have a rough time finding anybody who has more expertise and more ability in the law than Judge Sam Alito.”

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