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Alito Filibuster Try Lacks Support

Judge Samuel Alito rises after the final round of questioning by Senate Judiciary Committee members, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006, supreme court hearing hearings
AP
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito enjoys sufficient bipartisan support to surmount any Senate filibuster attempt by minority Democrats, Senate leaders said Friday.

A final vote making the New Jersey jurist the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice is scheduled for Tuesday, hours before President Bush gives his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation.

Acknowledging he's facing an "uphill battle," Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is nonetheless asking Senate colleagues to join him in a filibuster to stop the Alito nomination, CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss reports.

But Democrats and Republicans alike said the 55-year-old conservative jurist will get more than the 60 votes need to cut off debate on the Senate floor Monday.

"Everyone knows there are not enough votes to support a filibuster," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Friday. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the same thing on Thursday. "A bipartisan majority will vote to confirm Judge Alito as Justice Alito," Frist said.

Alito's supporters already have those commitments, with 53 of the Republicans' 55-member majority and three Democrats Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Ben Nelson of Nebraska already publicly supporting his confirmation as the replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., also announced Friday he is "leaning in favor of voting for" the conservative judge. "It is clear to me that a majority of the American people and the people I represent support his confirmation," he said after meeting with Alito in his office.

Senior Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska also threw his support to Alito. Stevens said he closely monitored Alito's commitment during his confirmation hearings to "respect" past rulings when it comes to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark abortion rights decision.

"As I vote to confirm his nomination, I do so under the assumption that Judge Alito will uphold this commitment," said Stevens, who supports abortion rights.

Reid, who will vote on Monday with Democrats who want to filibuster Alito and against confirmation on Tuesday, said those votes are "an opportunity to people to express their opinion on what a bad choice it was to replace Sandra Day O'Connor."

As the floor debate ensued Friday, the leaders of the filibuster attempt – Kerry and fellow Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy – were trying to drum up support in their caucus for blocking Alito.

They were counting senators like Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Debbie Stabenow on their side. Other senators, including ranking Judiciary Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Charles Schumer of New York, head of the Senate Democrats' fundraising arm, did not say Thursday whether they supported the effort.

"There's some division in our caucus," Kennedy conceded. "It's an uphill climb at the current time, but it's achievable."