A U.S. Senate committee is to vote on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court as early as Tuesday.  The panel concluded a week of hearings into the nomination Friday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote to send the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the full Senate on January 17.

But opposition Democrats, under Senate rules, could postpone the vote a week.

The Bush administration is urging Democrats not to delay Senate action on Alito's nomination.  

"We believe he is worthy of a confirmation vote in an expeditious manner, and we believe he should be confirmed," said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

President Bush wants Alito confirmed before he delivers his State of the Union address at the end of the month.

Whether or not the committee vote is delayed, it appears Alito will be confirmed by the full Republican-led Senate before then.

The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, announced his support for the nominee, after he concluded confirmation hearings:

"I intend to vote to support Judge Alito's nomination for associate justice to the Supreme Court, and I do not do that as a matter of having a party line vote or as a matter of party loyalty," he said.

Republicans argue Alito, who has served 15 years as a federal appeals court judge, is well qualified for the high court.

But Democrats say the nominee's record suggests that, if confirmed, he would try to undermine abortion rights and civil rights.

Echoing those concerns is Kate Michelman, former president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, who testified at the hearing.

"There is much in his record that indicates clearly and beyond the boundaries of reasonable dispute that he rejects the idea of privacy, personal privacy as a fundamental American ideal," she said.  "A woman's right to choose is a powerful manifestation of privacy."

Other witnesses testified that Alito is fair and impartial, and approaches cases with no agenda.  They say he would bring those qualities to the high court.

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