Alito Hearings In Homestretch

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 12: U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Samuel Alito (Center-R), leaves the witness table after concluding his participation in confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill January 12, 2006 in Washington, DC. GETTY IMAGES

Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court is gliding toward confirmation despite a week of hearings in which Democrats tried and failed to hobble his prospects with withering questions on abortion, presidential power and ethics.

President Bush called Alito after the hearings to congratulate him on doing a "great job" and told him he "showed great class," reports CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras.

Friday will be the fifth and final day of hearings and the committee will hear from the last of the outside witnesses, some called by Republicans to praise Alito and those chosen by Democrats to criticize him, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss.

Democrats argue that the former Reagan administration lawyer is likely to tip the court's balance to the right in replacing centrist Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But with little success so far peeling votes from Alito's confirmation as the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice, Democrats showed not much appetite for mounting a filibuster on the Senate floor.

Instead, they are seeking to slow Alito's ascension by demanding that the Judiciary Committee's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., delay the panel's vote a week.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid "is urging all Democrats to refrain from committing to a vote either for or against confirmation prior to the caucus next Wednesday," Reid spokesman Jim Manley said.

Specter, who had wanted a committee vote next Tuesday, told reporters Thursday night that the date of a vote was up in the air. "It's been very hard to get a focus on that," he said.

Democrats want to give their caucus time to study the hearing transcripts, Manley said. Also to be considered is whether any reason exists to filibuster the nomination, but the chances of a filibuster happening appeared slim.

"I don't think he's going to get many votes from Democrats on the committee," Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat on the committee, said on CBS News' The Early Show. "As for a filibuster, it's something we'll have to discuss. So it's not on the table or off the table right now."

Any delay would do little to whittle support for Alito's confirmation.

GOP senators, both on and off the committee, praised Alito, who has been a federal appeals court judge for the past 15 years, as his testimony ended Thursday.

"He has an incredible knowledge, a very good judicial temperament and you'll see him carefully weigh and consider each case," said Kansas Republican Sam Brownback on The Early Show.

"I enthusiastically endorse and support Judge Alito's nomination," Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., noted to the judge that his high school friends "predicted you would serve on the Supreme Court one day, and I think that's going to turn out to be a good prediction."

A Democratic senator issued positive comment as well. "So far I have seen nothing during my interview with the nominee, the background materials that have been produced or through the committee process that I would consider a disqualifying issue against Judge Alito," Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said.
  • Joel Roberts

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