A final vote making the New Jersey jurist the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice was scheduled for Tuesday morning, only hours before President Bush begins his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation, if Alito's bipartisan supporters succeed in rounding up 60 votes to cut off debate on Monday.
Republicans didn't seem worried, with 52 of their 55-member majority and three Democrats — Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Ben Nelson of Nebraska — already publicly supporting Alito's confirmation as replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
While some of his Democratic colleagues continued to press for a filibuster, Sen. Joe Biden, who plans to vote against Alito, says a move to block Alito isn't likely.
"I think we should make statements as to why, in my case, why I think Judge Alito should not go on the bench," Biden, D-Del., told CBS News' The Early Show. "He gives much too much power to the presidency, thinks the president can go to war without the consent of Congress. But a filibuster, I think, is not likely to occur. But who knows, one man can generate a filibuster."
Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota made it clear Thursday night after a second day of floor debate on Alito that they would not support a filibuster, even though Akaka was going to vote against the nominee and Dorgan was still undecided.
"Next Tuesday, a bipartisan majority will vote to confirm Judge Alito as Justice Alito," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said.
As the floor debate was continuing Thursday, the leaders of the filibuster attempt — Massachusetts Sens. Edward Kennedy and John Kerry — 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."