Senate confirmation appears imminent
The Senate Judiciary Committee this week recommended the confirmation of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The vote was 10 to 8 along party lines, signaling that his confirmation by the Republican-controlled Senate is likely. The debate began Wednesday and is expected to continue through Friday and perhaps longer.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, urged senators to oppose Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
“The Senate should vote against Judge Alito and the considerable threat he poses to the American value of fairness,” said Solmonese in a statement. “The eight senators who voted against Judge Alito’s confirmation understand that balance, not extremism, belongs in the court. When it comes to protecting fairness, partisanship can’t be a part of the equation.”
Solmonese said that Alito’s resume “reads like an anti-gay textbook.” Alito opposed a policy that protected gay students from harassment and he believes Congress’ power to enact nondiscrimination laws should be checked, he said.
Retiring Justice Sandra O’Connor’s swing vote should be replaced by a moderate one, not Alito’s, which is expected to be harshly conservative, Solmonese said.
“As the critical vote in the Senate nears, we should all make our opposition to Judge Alito loud and clear to our leaders in Washington,” Solmonese said.
The recommendation for Alito’s confirmation follows a bitter debate in the Senate committee about the judge’s record. Democratic leaders are expected to attack Alito’s record as an appellate judge in the full Senate debate, as they did in the confirmation hearing.
Only one Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, has announced public support of Alito. He is viewed as one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress.
Although Alito’s confirmation is expected, it will likely be by a smaller margin that the 78 to 22 vote that confirmed Chief Justice John G. Roberts last fall. Three Democrats who supported Roberts publicly attacked Alito’s record during the confirmation hearing.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat who supported Roberts, said he feared Alito’s presence on the court would “threaten the fundamental rights and liberties of all Americans.”
Critics are concerned that Alito’s support of broad executive branch powers would allow President Bush’s spy program to broaden executive powers at the expense of an intrusion into the private lives of Americans.
The other two Democrats who supported Roberts, Senators Russell Feingold and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, said Alito appears more likely to expand presidential powers, limit civil rights and possibly roll back abortion laws on the state level.
Republicans have criticized Democrats for not giving Alito bipartisan support. Senator Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina said Democrats are attempting to turn the confirmation process into a political campaign.
So far, none of the Senate’s 55 Republicans have announced opposition to Alito’s confirmation. Most observers have said Democrats seem unlikely to attempt a filibuster to block Alito’s confirmation.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of January 27, 2006.