Senate Panel Recommends Alito On Party-Line Vote - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/24/06-Washington, D.C.

Senate Panel Recommends Alito On Party-Line Vote

The Judiciary Committee favorably recommended Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination to the full Senate on a party-line vote Tuesday, ensuring prospects the conservative jurist will join the high court bench.

All 10 Republicans voted for Alito, while all eight Democrats voted against him. The partisan vote was almost preordained, with 15 of the 18 senators announcing their votes even before the committee's session began.

The full Senate expects to take a final vote on Alito's nomination before the end of the week. That vote is also expected to follow along party lines, with only one Democrat -- Ben Nelson of Nebraska -- coming out so far in support of Alito. Republicans hold the balance of power in the Senate 55-44, with one independent.

Senate Republicans say Alito is a good choice for the nation's highest court.

"Like America's founders, Judge Alito clearly believes in self-government, that the people and not judges should make law, and that judges have an important role but must know and stay in their proper place," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Democrats united in opposition

But Democrats are fretting that the 55-year-old jurist and former lawyer for the Reagan administration will swing the court to the right and help overturn precedent-setting decisions like Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's abortion rights case, although he refused to talk about that decision at his confirmation hearing.

"He still believes that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion, but does not want to tell the American people because he knows how unpopular that view is," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York.

Alito was picked last October by President Bush to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She was the high court's first female member, and a key swing vote on contentious issues such as abortion, affirmative action and the death penalty during her career on the court.

Alito was the White House's second choice for that seat. White House counsel Harriet Miers withdrew from consideration last year after conservative criticism of her nomination.

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