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Dems Waging Final Try To Block Alito

Judge Samuel Alito rises after the final round of questioning by Senate Judiciary Committee members, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006, supreme court hearing hearings
AP
Liberal Democrats waged an eleventh-hour attempt Monday to block Samuel Alito's Supreme Court confirmation, arguing that he would tilt the high court further to the right.

GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island also announced that he would vote against Alito's confirmation. Chafee, a self-described "pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-Bill of Rights Republican," is the only member of the Republican Party so far to announce that he will vote against the conservative judge.

Chafee refused to support the Democrats' filibuster attempt, however. "How are we going to get anything done if we can't work together?" Chafee asked.

But liberal Democrats say that Alito — a former federal prosecutor and conservative lawyer for the Reagan administration — would put individual rights and liberties in danger.

"I think he is the wrong judge at the wrong time in the wrong place," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a longtime liberal stalwart. "I do not believe he is going to be part of the whole movement of the continued march towards progress in this country."

Kennedy is leading an effort to try to mount a filibuster against Alito but has been unable to get enough Democrats to join him to win a critical procedural vote Monday afternoon, CBS News correspondent Bob Fuss reports.

Added Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, the chamber's lone independent: "The addition of Judge Alito would unacceptably shift the balance of the court on many critical issues facing our country."

Alito's supporters say they already had more than enough votes to ensure that he be confirmed to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. They still hoped that could happen before President Bush gives his State of the Union speech in the Capitol on Tuesday.

If Alito, 55, can garner at least 60 votes in Monday's test vote, the final confirmation vote would be Tuesday morning. An Associated Press survey last week showed that Alito has at least 62 votes.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the filibuster attempt "a last-ditch partisan effort to mollify the lobbyists of the hard left. It will backfire, and a filibuster-proof majority will vote to move forward on this nomination."

Alito, a 15-year veteran of the federal appeals court, has well over 50 votes for confirmation Tuesday. At least 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.