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Feinstein sees nothing to justify filibuster of Alito

WASHINGTON (BP)–Boosting the chances for an easy confirmation, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Jan. 15 that she sees nothing in Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito’s record that would warrant a filibuster.

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the California senator said she opposes Alito and plans on voting against him, but sees the chances of a filibuster to be remote.

“I do not see the likelihood of a filibuster, to be very candid with you,” she said. “I don’t see those kinds of egregious things emerging that would justify a filibuster. I think when it comes to filibustering a Supreme Court appointment, you really have to have something out there, whether it’s gross moral turpitude or something that comes to the surface. … [T]his is a man I might disagree with. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be on the court.”

Feinstein said she believes Alito, if confirmed, would “most be like” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a hero of social conservatives.

“I’ve made up my mind [to vote against Alito] because I’m very concerned about certain … tendencies of the Rehnquist court [and] where that was going, certainly with respect to restricting the rights of Congress to legislate, certainly with respect to a woman’s right to choose, certainly with respect to the concept of expanded executive power,” she said.

But other Democrats, including Charles Schumer of New York, have not ruled out a filibuster.

If confirmed, Alito would be the second Supreme Court nominee of President Bush’s to be confirmed. Bush nominee John Roberts replaced deceased Chief Justice William Rehnquist last year; Alito would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The court has nine members.

Although a Judiciary Committee vote on Alito was scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 17, committee Democrats have exercised their right to put it off at least for a couple of days, and perhaps longer. A vote in the full Senate was scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20, but that vote now will be pushed back.

It takes 60 votes to prevent a filibuster, and Republicans have 55 seats, Democrats 44. There is one independent who usually sides with the Democrats. Last May, seven Democrats joined with seven Republicans to prevent a Senate showdown over judicial filibusters. As part of the “Gang of 14” compromise, the seven Democrats agreed to filibuster only under “extraordinary circumstances.”

Assuming that all 55 Republicans oppose a filibuster, Alito would then need the support of only five Democrats to prevent a filibuster. One of the seven, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, said he is leaning toward supporting Alito. A spokesperson for Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, another of the seven, said Pryor “does not see any extraordinary circumstances” that would spark a filibuster, The Los Angeles Times reported. A third member of the Gang of 14, Sen. Robert Byrd, D.-W.Va., said on the Senate floor in December that Alito would not be filibustered.

The other Democratic members of the Gang of 14 are Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

Alito’s confirmation would be a significant victory for social conservatives and could possibly give them the fifth vote needed to uphold a federal ban on partial-birth abortion. O’Connor supported abortion rights and voted in 2000 to overturn Nebraska’s ban on partial-abortion.

Partial-birth abortion is a horrific late-term procedure in which an abortion doctor delivers a baby, feet first, until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor then pierces the base of the infant’s skull with surgical scissors before inserting a catheter into the opening and suctioning out the brain, killing the child. It often is performed on babies who could survive outside the womb. Witnesses to the procedure have reported seeing a baby’s fingers and feet moving prior to the piercing of the skull. One nurse even testified as to seeing a “baby’s little fingers … clasping and unclasping, and his little feet … kicking” before it was killed.

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