Will Democrats really filibuster Alito?

It is hard to believe that the Democrats will filibuster Alito after the good job that he did last week and after the Democrats appeared to step over any proper bounds in attacking him, and I am even surprised that they are actively threatening it. But this talk alone surely shows how much more difficult confirmations have become, even with what seemed like a flawless performance by the nominee.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced Thursday he will vote against Judge Sam Alito for the U.S. Supreme Court. And he said so many other senators intensely oppose Alito that they may have enough votes to sustain a filibuster against the conservative jurist. . . .

As the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, it's Durbin's job to count votes for and against Alito. He said he won't know until Tuesday if there are enough strong opponents to filibuster Alito's nomination.

"A week ago, I would have told you it's not likely to happen," Durbin said. "As of [Wednesday], I just can't rule it out. I was surprised by the intensity of feeling of some of my colleagues. It's a matter of counting. We have 45 Democrats, counting [Vermont independent] Jim Jeffords, on our side. We could sustain a filibuster if 41 senators ... are willing to stand and fight.

"We're asking senators where they stand. When it reaches a critical moment when five senators have said they oppose a filibuster, it's off the table. It's not going to happen. But if it doesn't reach that moment, then we'll sit down and have that conversation." . . .

Steinberg, who I got to know when I lived in Chicago, also writes that the Dems view Alito as evil, but:

Not that they got that across. A murderer's row of Democratic senatorial powerhouses, led by Ted Kennedy, had hours of choice TV time to tar Alito, and came off looking verbose and ineffective.

"It wasn't an easy week, I'll tell you," Durbin said, with a laugh.

To be fair, the Dems were in a bind -- anything resembling tough questioning would be seen as bullying a respected jurist, which doesn't poll well. So they were left speechifying and focusing on minutia.

None of it added up to the impression that Alito was too conservative to serve.

"We look back and say, 'What went wrong?'" said Durbin, who insists that the American people feel Bush won the election and therefore gets to pick his court nominee, but they didn't realize they would also be getting Alito's America.

"Did he win the election saying he would appoint a justice to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade?" said Durbin. "This isn't what we bargained for."

Durbin said Democratic senators will decide over the next several days whether they want to take the dramatic step of filibustering the nomination. It's still a long shot but, I'll tell you this: It would make great theater. . . .


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