Leahy To Reveal Alito Vote

The headcount continues in the Senate on the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito, which comes up for a Judiciary Committee vote on Tuesday.

Democrats Max Baucus of Montana, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts all announced Wednesday that they will vote against Alito, President Bush's pick to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"He's just not right for Montana, he's just not right for America," Baucus said. Added Mikulski, "I have a lot of unanswered questions."

The Alito nomination has caused a rift among Senate Democrats, with one saying publicly he will vote for the conservative judge while others are lining up to oppose his confirmation.

Several Democrats are expected to make their votes public Thursday, including Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Last fall, Leahy and two other committee Democrats - Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, both from Wisconsin - voted to confirm the nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts.

Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska Tuesday became the only Democrat to say that he will support Alito. Nelson said he will vote in favor of the nomination of Alito "because of his impeccable judicial credentials, the American Bar Association's strong recommendation and his pledge that he would not bring a political agenda to the court."

Nelson, who is seeking re-election this fall in his Republican state, said in his statement that he has "supported more than 215 of President Bush's nominations to the federal bench, including Chief Justice John Roberts."

All ten Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have endorsed Alito, assuring him of approval even though most of the eight committee Democrats are expected to oppose his confirmation.

Many Democrats are expected to speak against Alito's nomination when final Senate debate begins Jan. 25. "I'm not a fan of Alito," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Alito met Wednesday with several Democratic senators, including Baucus, Bill Nelson of Florida and Ron Wyden of Oregon. He is meeting Thursday with Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware and new Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey. All those senators except Baucus are undecided on Alito's nomination.

Alito will also meet with Republicans John Sununu of New Hampshire and John Warner of Virginia on Thursday. Sununu is undecided, while Warner expects to vote for Alito's confirmation.