Alito’s “Gang Meeting”

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Amid the dissension being exhibited as of late by the respective party leadership, here’s some refreshing news regarding a more moderate approach to the Alito nomination evaluation.

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr., meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, told one senator that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to privacy and won praise from Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Alito told him in their meeting that he recognized a right to privacy, the principle that underlies the Supreme Court’s abortion rights rulings. “I think he believes in that fundamental right,” Durbin told reporters in Washington. He added that Alito didn’t say if he would apply it in abortion cases.

Earlier today, Nelson said he is reassured that Alito wouldn’t be an activist. Both Nelson and Durbin said they want to learn more about Alito before deciding whether to support his nomination.

“At this point in time I have a comfort level that I’m satisfied with,” Nelson said after his session with Alito. “He assured me that he wants to go to the bench without a political agenda, that he is not bringing a hammer and chisel to hammer away and chisel away on existing law.”

Nelson is one of a small group of centrist Democrats who are being targeted by the White House to shore up support for Alito and avoid a filibuster that could block a vote on the nominee. Republicans, who hold 55 seats in the 100-member Senate, need five more votes to overcome the parliamentary tactic and shut off unlimited debate.

Let more moderate heads prevail!

Speaking with reporters outside his office in Washington, Nelson said after his private meeting with Alito that it is too early to tell if the nomination would be deemed extraordinary by some and fracture the coalition. He said the group plans to meet tomorrow.

“We all want to avoid having the Gang of 14 called into service on this,” he said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and Gang of 14 member, said he will tell the group tomorrow that it is unacceptable to filibuster a nominee solely over his judicial philosophy. If that happens, Graham said, “it will be Mideast politics in the Senate.”

Hopefully this coalition stays in place, despite the recent partisian rumblings, and allows there to be a continuing mechanism through which the best of both party’s perspectives are incorporated.

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