Nelson First Democrat to Announce FOR Alitoby Kyle Michaelis
The AP broke this expected but nonetheless disheartening news Tuesday evening:
Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska on Tuesday became the first Democrat to announce he will vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.
Nelson, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, said in a statement that he had made up his mind to support 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."
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote next Tuesday on Alito's nomination to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who often casts the swing vote on controversial cases.
All 10 Republicans on the panel have endorsed him, assuring him of approval even though most of the eight committee Democrats are expected to oppose his confirmation.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has announced that debate on the nomination will begin in the full Senate on Jan. 25. Alito seems assured of confirmation there, too, despite strenuous opposition from many Democrats.
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."
I don't want to be all gloom and doom. The immense responsibility of serving on the US Supreme Court has forced many judges throughout history to set aside the ideology expected of them for the good of the country, the advancement of freedom, and the defense of the Constitution.
Certainly, the worst fears about Alito's confirmation may never come to pass. Also, though incredibly powerful, the Supreme Court does not exist in a bubble - its actions have consequences that reverberate throughout the republic and across every other political institution. No battle is lost by a single vote - even in an exclusive company of nine. No, the battle for the soul and the future of this nation is much greater in substance and scope than that, instead resting entirely on the compassion and wisdom of the American people.
In that, we must trust even if it causes us trepidation and pain. Democracy is an act of faith, particularly for those in the minority whose rights are most likely to be trampled. Of course, I'm not advocating faith without action - in democracy, there is no concept of grace to fall back on. Every victory is fought for and progress is by no means assured. We would be foolish not to be disappointed at the difficult path that lies ahead, and I would be remiss if I did not admit to some disappointment at Sen. Nelson's own role in its making.
Who is Samuel Alito? Is Nelson justified in taking him at his word that he will be a fair jurist above partisanship and extremist ideoloogy? Those are questions for which only time can provide an answer.
But if this is not a political vote - if Nelson's choice reflects honest consideration and fulfillment of his duty to advise and consent - then, there is no more we can truly ask of him. The power he here entrusts to Alito emanates from us, an extension of those we first placed in him.
Elections have consequences. That is the only wisdom I have to offer. Senators know it. The people demand it. For our own good as Democrats and/or liberals, we must even accept it...learning what lessons we can and finding the will deep within ourselves to make "Never again!" a reality.