Saturday, January 21, 2006

''Durbin to vote against Alito, says filibuster possible''

"U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced Thursday he will vote against Judge Sam Alito for the U.S. Supreme Court. And he said so many other senators intensely oppose Alito that they may have enough votes to sustain a filibuster against the conservative jurist.

"In case after case, he has voted -- often as the lone dissenter on his court -- against the dispossessed, the poor and the powerless who finally made their way to his court," Durbin said.
He didn't like what he considered Alito's vague, noncommittal answers -- during Senate hearings -- about abortion and presidential power "to eavesdrop on our phone conversations" and "to seize American citizens and to imprison them indefinitely without charge."

And then there was Alito's refusal to take a firm stand on The Boss.

"Judge Alito was extremely guarded in his answers," Durbin said. "Judge Alito, a New Jersey native, wouldn't even say whether he was a Bruce Springsteen fan. I asked him about that, and his answer was, 'I am -- to some degree.' Now he may be one of the few people from New Jersey who has such cautious fealty to The Boss."

That line prompted laughter among hundreds of Northwestern University Law School students who attended Durbin's announcement.

Around the country, six other Democrats announced they will vote "no" on Alito, including Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ken Salazar (D-Colo.). One Democratic senator, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, has said he will vote for Alito. One Republican, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, reportedly may vote against him. No others have said they are breaking party ranks.

'I just can't rule it out'

As the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, it's Durbin's job to count votes for and against Alito. He said he won't know until Tuesday if there are enough strong opponents to filibuster Alito's nomination.

"A week ago, I would have told you it's not likely to happen," Durbin said. "As of [Wednesday], I just can't rule it out. I was surprised by the intensity of feeling of some of my colleagues. It's a matter of counting. We have 45 Democrats, counting [Vermont independent] Jim Jeffords, on our side. We could sustain a filibuster if 41 senators ... are willing to stand and fight.

"We're asking senators where they stand. When it reaches a critical moment when five senators have said they oppose a filibuster, it's off the table. It's not going to happen. But if it doesn't reach that moment, then we'll sit down and have that conversation."

Durbin took questions from law students -- many of them members of the conservative Federalist Society who support Alito and who noted his high ratings from the American Bar Association.

"What's the difference between the current situation and the [Ruth Bader] Ginsberg nomination, where, as you know, the Republicans overwhelmingly voted to confirm her, even though they didn't agree with her politically, because they knew she had the qualifications necessary?" second-year law student Jonathan Steitz asked.

"When Bill Clinton was looking to fill that vacancy, he was in dialogue with Orrin Hatch, the Republican leader on the Senate Judiciary Committee," Durbin said. "He brought him several names that Hatch rejected. He said, 'Don't send those to me -- I can't get 'em through.' And then Bill Clinton came up with the name of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. And Hatch said, 'I can support her. The Republicans can support her.' A dramatic difference from where we are today."

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) plans to meet with Alito next week before announcing his vote."-from the story Friday in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Here's quote that might help the filibuster effort: "Frist calls Alito Democrats' nightmare"-from the Reuters story.

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