Move to Block Judge Alito Faces 'Uphill Battle'

WASHINGTON – A group of liberal Democratic Senators yesterday decided to make a last minute effort to block the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito, while acknowledging it was an “uphill battle." A vote is set for next Tuesday.

Already more than the simple majority of senators in the 100-member Senate needed to confirm the nominee have expressed their support. Virtually every Republican Senator has endorsed the nominee with a few Democrats joining in so far.

To filibuster the confirmation requires 41 votes, which will be difficult to obtain.

The attempt to block the nomination will be “an uphill battle at the present time,” because of division within the Democratic Party, said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who along with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), is attempting to gain support for the effort, according to the Associated Press.

Liberal senators feel that Judge Alito, 55, will fail to curb the president’s power and will not protect civil liberties as a Supreme Court Justice.

If confirmed in Tuesday’s vote, Judge Alito will become the nation’s 110th Supreme Court Justice. He would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who became the first woman ever to sit on the bench of the nation’s highest court when she was confirmed in 1982. She has been considered a swing vote crucial to deciding various close decisions by the Supreme Court.

Highlighting division within the Democratic Party over Judge Alito, Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would not go along with the liberal plan to block the vote with extended debate.

"There's been adequate time for people to debate," Reid said, according to AP. "No one can complain on this matter that there hasn't been sufficient time to talk about Judge Alito, pro or con."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was confident that the New Jersey jurist would be confirmed by next Tuesday, when he scheduled a vote on the nominee, which comes just in time for President Bush’s annual State of the Union address later that day.

In a statement yesterday, Frist said that “the time has come to move to a vote.”

“Next Tuesday, a bipartisan majority will vote to confirm Judge Alito as Justice Alito,” Frist said, according to AP.

The move to stop a filibuster was also a concern for nationally-known conservative groups such as the Washington-based Family Research Council and Colorado-based Focus on the Family. The groups placed ads in the state of South Dakota, encouraging Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) to oppose an attempt at a filibuster. The senator won his post by a narrow margin in a state with a strong pro-life stance.

Yesterday, Johnson decided to endorse Alito even though he was concerned about Alito’s views on executive power, voting rights and civil rights.

"Even so, I cannot accept an argument that his views are so radical that the Senate is justified in denying his confirmation,” he said, according to the Argus Leader. Johnson said he paid little attention to ads from groups outside the state, opting to vote his conscience.

The other Democratic senators who said they would vote for Judge Alito were Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.)