Democrats, GOP Debate Alito Nomination in Senate

Judge Samuel Alto's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court appears all but guaranteed, but Democrats and Republicans continue to bitterly debate his record in the U.S. Senate. Democratic leaders remain concerned about Alto's position on both executive power and abortion rights, but a Democratic filibuster seems unlikely.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And in his press conference the President praised Judge Samuel Alito today as senator's debate for a second day whether Alito should be the next Supreme Court Justice. The votes are there, more than half the members have already said they'll vote to confirm Alito and Democrats seem unwilling to mount a filibuster.

More now from NPR's David Welna at the capital.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

When John Roberts was confirmed as Chief Justice last fall twenty-two Democrats voted for him. But Samuel Alito appears certain to pick up much less support from the minority party and he may even be opposed by some Republicans who back abortion rights. This morning at the White House President Bush once again prodded the Senate to make short work of its debate on Alito.

President GEORGE BUSH: My point is that he has broad support from people that know him, people from both political parties, because he's a decent man who's got a lot of experience and he deserves an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate.

WELNA: The President would clearly like to tout Alito's confirmation in his State of the Union Address he's to deliver next Tuesday, but Democrats have reached no agreement yet with Senate Republicans on a date certain for holding a final confirmation vote. In the mean time, Arlen Specter the Republican Chair of the Judiciary Committee and a supporter of abortion rights is trying to keep other like-minded Republicans from opposing Alito.

Senator ARLEN SPECHTER (Republican, Pennsylvania): It is important for Judge Alito to have supporters who favor a woman's right to choose so that he does not feel in any way beholden to, or confirmed by, people who have one idea on some of these questions or have another idea on some of these questions.

WELNA: The California Democrat Dianne Feinstein argued on the Senate floor this morning that Alito's negative statements on abortion in the past do not bode well for how he might rule as a Supreme Court Justice.

Senator DIANE FEINSTEIN (Democratic, California): If one is pro-choice in this day and age with the balance of the court at stake, one cannot vote for Judge Alito. I for one really believe there comes a time when you just have to stand up. Particularly when you know the majority of people stand as you do.

WELNA: Feinstein cited a recent Gallup poll in which 63% of Americans wanted the Roe vs. Wade decision establishing nationwide abortion rights to stand. But Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, who favors such rights and who spoke after Feinstein, said she intends to vote for Alito.

Senator LISA MURKOWSKI (Republican, Alaska): Been listening very carefully to the comments that have been made and the discussion of certain issues; but when it comes to the issue of Judge Alito's credentials, I don't hear a debate about the credentials. I don't hear a pure cry.

WELNA: It's a debate that could go on into next week. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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