Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrapped up his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and appeared headed toward confirmation by the full Senate.
On his final day of questioning, Alito defended his judicial record to skeptical Democrats and praised the justice he would replace — Sandra Day O'Connor.
"I would try to emulate her dedication and her integrity and her dedication to the case-by-case process of adjudication," Alito said.
In excusing Alito, Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the committee chairman, thanked him for his "remarkable patience and remarkable stamina" in enduring 18 hours of testimony and answering some 700 questions from panel members.
President Bush tapped Alito to replace O'Connor, who has provided a decisive vote on issues such as abortion, the death penalty and affirmative action. Democrats argue that Alito, in 15 years as an appellate judge, has built a conservative record that foretells a rightward direction if he is confirmed to the high court.
Republicans maintain a majority on the committee and control the Senate — 55-44 with one independent. GOP lawmakers have predicted that Alito will win the backing of the Senate later this month, and little has emerged in the hearings to undercut that assessment.
Democrats have not ruled out the possibility of a filibuster that could require supporters to post 60 votes in the 100-member chamber. But Judiciary Committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein has indicated a filibuster is unlikely and at least one conservative Democrat, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, is leaning toward backing Alito. Nelson said Thursday that he has seen nothing that would disqualify the nominee.
Democrats peppered Alito on Thursday about right-to-die cases, presidential authority and ethics on the fourth day of the hearings — and elicited no more personal observations on such issues than they had in previous sessions.
Alito did offer words of respect for the woman he would succeed.
"She has been known for her meticulous devotion to the facts of the particular cases that come before her and her belief that each case needs to be decided on its complex facts," Alito said.
Earlier, he told the panel that Americans have a right to designate family members or friends to carry out their right-to-die wishes, an issue pushed to the forefront last year by the case of a brain-damaged Florida woman.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, cited the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who was at the center of a fierce fight between her husband and family over her fate that involved the courts, Congress and even the president.
Leahy asked: If a person has a living will, could he designate someone to decide whether to use extraordinary measures to keep him alive?
"Yes, that's, I think, an extension of the traditional right that I was talking about that existed under common law, and it's been developed by state legislatures and, in some instances, state courts to deal with the living will situation and advances ... in medical technology, which create new issues in this area," Alito said.
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