Nelson No Longer Alone on Alitoby Kyle Michaelis
A second Senate Democrat broke ranks on Thursday and announced he would vote to confirm President George W. Bush's nomination of conservative federal appeals judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota said he had concerns about Alito on such matters as "executive power, his past opposition to the principle of one person, one vote, and his narrow interpretation of certain civil rights laws."
"Even so, I cannot accept an argument that his views are so radical that the Senate is justified in denying his confirmation"....
Johnson joined Ben Nelson of Nebraska as the only Senate Democrats to declare support for Alito, who appears certain to soon win confirmation in the Republican-led, 100-member chamber. Both Johnson and Nelson represent fairly conservative states that voted for Bush.
And, add one more Democrat to Johnson and Nelson's number - this time one that really hurts.....Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
"My considered judgment from his record, from his answers to my questions, and from his obvious intelligence and sincerity, leads me to believe him to be an honorable man who loves his country, loves his Constitution and will give of his best. Can we really ask for more?" said Byrd, the senior Democrat in the 100-member Senate.
He and other Democratic senators are calling for their party not to filibuster, the only weapon the minority party has left to try and stop Alito.
Democrats have not agreed to a time for a final vote, although Republicans are pushing for the 55-year-old judge from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to be confirmed before Bush's State of the Union on Tuesday.
Who among us will now dare to declare that Robert Byrd is not a real Democrat because of this vote? The longest-serving Democrat in the Senate. As much of a Constitutional authority as anyone in Congress (seriously, I think the guy was there when they wrote it). When Byrd defended the judicial filibuster last year from Republican attack, he was hailed as a hero. Will he now be vilified, just like that, as many have done with Nelson?
As I've said elsewhere, I can't look into these men's hearts and see what considerations truly hold dominion in this matter. Johnson above expresses reservations that at least indicate he sympathizes with those who share very grave concerns about Alito's record. As intelligent men, I expect the same holds true of Nelson, Byrd, and any other Democratic senators who might join them in the coming days.
I am not willing to make judgments of their character or their worthiness as Democrats on this basis. As I see it, it's really only their judgment and possible gullibility that is here called into question.
On this, I hope we can all agree, confining the debate to whether Alito truly deserves the faith in which he is being entrusted, rather than resorting to KKK-littered insults of past shames and silly reductions of a man's entire history of public service to some conveniently imagined but nevertheless toxic brew called Republican-lite.