Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Democrats Are United against Alito ; Solidarity against the High Court Nominee Could Aid Electoral Gains, They Say, Even If He's Confirmed

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Democrats Are United against Alito ; Solidarity against the High Court Nominee Could Aid Electoral Gains, They Say, Even If He's Confirmed

Article excerpt

With Senate math against them, Democrats see scant prospect of blocking Judge Samuel Alito's rise to the Supreme Court - a final call to be made in a caucus meeting Wednesday.

But their push for a party-line vote on Alito signals another prize in this week's confirmation debate: a possible takeover of the Senate in next fall's elections.

While liberal groups critical to the the Democratic base are disappointed with the probable confirmation of Judge Alito, Democrats are eager to mount an aggressive rhetorical case heading into this week's final vote - and coming midterm elections.

"This is a nomination that threatens the rights and liberties of Americans now and for generations to come," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee in his opening salvo against the nominee Tuesday. On a 10- 8 party-line vote, the panel voted to send the Alito nomination to the full Senate.

Senator Leahy was one of 22 Democrats who voted to confirm John Roberts as chief justice in September. In a far more contentious confirmation, 11 Democrats voted with Republicans to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1991. The vote to confirm Mr. Alito is expected to draw even fewer Democratic votes.

So far, the only Democrat to publicly back Alito is Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Six Democrats who voted for Justice Roberts have already announced their opposition to Alito.

In a week billed as a "prebuttal" of the president's State of the Union Address Jan. 31, Democrats are rallying around a few key themes: privacy rights, civil rights, and the dangers of unchecked presidential power.

"We'll use the debate to set the bar for the president's [speech] and set some themes for the 2006 elections," says Senate Democratic spokesman Jim Manley.

As President Bush takes his case for domestic eavesdropping without a warrant to the American people in a series of events this week, Democrats are using the Alito debate to raise objections. …

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