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US Supreme Court Nominee Nearing Confirmation

  • Deborah Tate

The U.S. Senate has scheduled a procedural vote later Monday on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, ahead of the nominee's expected confirmation by the chamber on Tuesday.

An overwhelming majority of Senators are expected to vote later Tuesday to end debate on the nomination of Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, paving the way for his expected confirmation Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee spoke for many supporters of Alito in the Republican-led Senate. He said: "This is a nominee that is well-qualified."

But many Democrats argue that Alito's record suggests he would undermine civil liberties and women's rights if confirmed to the high court.

Two key Democrats are leading an effort to block the nomination from coming to a vote through the use of extended debate, also known as a filibuster.

"I have expressed my opposition to Judge Alito because I think he is the wrong judge at the wrong time in the wrong court," said Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. "I do not believe he is going to be part of the whole movement of the continued march towards progress in this country."

But fellow Massachusetts' Democrat, Senator John Kerry, who made an unsuccessful bid to unseat President Bush in 2004, acknowledges his push to block the confirmation vote may not succeed.

"I know it is an uphill battle," he said.

Kerry and Kennedy need the support of 41 senators in the 100-member Senate to vote to continue the debate in order to block the nomination from coming to a vote. Democrats hold 44 seats, and there is one Independent who often votes with them.

But while many Democrats oppose Alito's nomination and will likely vote against him, they do not support blocking the nomination from coming to a vote.

"There has been adequate time for people to debate," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the chamber's top Democrat. "No one can complain that there has not been sufficient time to talk about Judge Alito, pro or con."

Senate Republican leaders have threatened to ban the use of the filibuster if Democrats use it to block the president's judicial nominees from getting confirmation votes. Democrats have threatened to halt legislative activity if Republicans make good on their threat.

Many Democrats would prefer to focus their political battles on the controversy surrounding President Bush's decision to order eavesdropping, without warrants, on Americans suspected of having ties to terrorists and on the lobbying scandal that primarily involves Republicans.

If confirmed, as expected, Alito would succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is considered a moderate and who often cast the deciding vote in controversial cases on the deeply divided court.