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Senate panel recommends Alito on party-line vote

Democrats unlikely to use filibuster on Supreme Court nominee

From Bill Mears
CNN Washington Bureau

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Sen. Arlen Specter says he expects a full Senate vote on Judge Samuel Alito by the end of the week.

COMMITTEE VOTE ON ALITO

FOR:
Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania
Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
Charles Grassley, R-Iowa
Jon Kyl, R-Arizona
Mike DeWine, R-Ohio
Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama
Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina
John Cornyn, R-Texas
Sam Brownback, R-Kansas
Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma

AGAINST:
Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont
Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts
Joseph Biden, D-Delaware
Herbert Kohl, D-Wisconsin
Dianne Feinstein, D-California
Russell Feingold, D-Wisconsin
Charles Schumer, D-New York
Richard Durbin, D-Illinois

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Supreme Court
Samuel Alito

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito received approval from a Senate panel Tuesday on a 10-8 party-line vote, setting up a potentially contentious floor fight later this week.

Despite the partisan tone, Alito is expected to become the 110th justice on the high court.

All 10 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee supported Alito, praising his qualifications and long judicial career.

The panel's eight Democrats opposed him, saying he would be too deferential to presidential authority and would restrict abortion rights.

The next -- and final -- step in the confirmation is a vote by the full Senate, which committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, said is expected by the end of the week.

Republicans and the White House are pushing to have that vote before President Bush gives his State of the Union speech January 31, Senate sources have said.

The committee vote again revealed the divisiveness among its members, similar to the questioning Alito faced when he testified before the panel earlier this month.

"All of the evidence points to a judge who can render justice with respect to persons," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "The reason why so many senators cannot support Judge Alito is because they cannot support a limited judiciary."

The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, supported Chief Justice John Roberts last fall.

But this time, Leahy said, "I am concerned that if we confirm this nominee, it will further erode the checks and balances" between the branches of government.

Democrats mostly united

Anti-Alito protesters gathered outside the Capitol, holding signs saying, "Oppose Alito, Save Roe," referring to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion.

Alito himself was not on hand for the vote, but he planned to meet privately later Tuesday with Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, one of a number of undecided Democrats who might be inclined to support the judge. So far, only one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, has announced his support.

GOP leaders say most, if not all, 55 Republicans would back Alito. Twenty-two Democrats voted to confirm Roberts in September.

Democrats have all but dismissed any attempt to filibuster the nomination. But several on the panel used the vote to attack the president's policies.

"We have a president who claims he has the authority to spy on persons on American soil without the court order required by law," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, referring to the disclosure Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct secret wiretapping on U.S. citizens in connection with terror investigations.

"The record demonstrates that we cannot count on Judge Alito to blow the whistle when the president is out of bounds."

GOP lawmakers cautioned Democrats from making Bush's judicial nominations a campaign issue in the November midterm elections.

"Our side would welcome that debate," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. "And frankly, we'll clean your clock."

Alito, a 55-year-old federal appeals court judge, would replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate conservative. Many liberal groups said they fear Alito would move the high court further to the right.

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