Alito Poised For Confirmation

Judge Samuel Alito, left, shakes hands with Senate Judiciary Committee member, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, at the end of Alito's testimony before the committee for his confirmation as a Supreme Court justice in Washington Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006. AP

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's likelihood for confirmation to the highest U.S. court seems to improve each day, but Democrats confirmed Friday they will make a last-ditch attempt to slow his momentum by delaying the first vote on his candidacy.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said in the waning minutes of Alito's confirmation hearing that unnamed Democrats will "exercise their rights" to put off next week's scheduled Alito vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That vote would have been the Republicans' first chance to officially endorse President George W. Bush's pick to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O' Connor. All 10 Republican Judiciary Committee members already have announced their support for Alito, a 55-year-old federal appeals judge, former federal prosecutor and Reagan administration lawyer.

CBSNews.com legal analyst Andrew Cohen says he doesn't see many obstacles for Alito.

"Clearly, he didn't say anything embarrassing or controversial or stupid that would have harmed his chances," Cohen said. "And I think the losers in the week have to be these Senate Judiciary Committee members who had this precious time … and instead used their time to make political speeches that, really, very few people listened to."

The White House heaped praise on Alito Friday, with spokesman Scott McClellan saying the proceedings showed Americans a man who's "brilliant, honorable and decent, open-minded and fair."

But Democrats, who have eight votes on the committee, say they won't be ready to vote on his nomination on Tuesday, with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid having called on his senators to hold off making a decision until a Wednesday meeting.

The Senate Judiciary Committee's vote is scheduled for Tuesday, but CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss reports that, under committee rules, any member can delay the vote for a week, "so we now assume that the committee vote will come Tuesday, Jan 24."

"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 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."

The federal government is closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, named for the slain civil rights leader.

"A number of our members are going to be home for Martin Luther King events this weekend, will not be back on time on Tuesday and so they will exercise their rights" to delay the vote, Leahy said.
  • Joel Roberts

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