Senate Democrats: If Samuel Alito Won’t Talk Abortion, Filibuster Possible

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 7, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Democrats: If Samuel Alito Won’t Talk Abortion, Filibuster Possible Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 7, 2006

Washington, DC ( — A leading pro-abortion Senate Democrat on the Judiciary Committee says a filibuster on the Senate floor may be possible if Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito won’t answer questions about abortion and other issues during his hearings that begin tomorrow.

"If he continuously, given his previous record, refused to answer questions and hid behind ‘I can’t answer this because it might come before me,’ it would increase the chances of a filibuster," New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and the only woman on the judicial panel, agreed and said she would support a filibuster if she believed Alito would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

"If I believed he was going to go in there and overthrow Roe, the question is most likely yes," Feinstein told "Fox News Sunday."

Should pro-abortion lawmakers try a filibuster, at least one member of a group of 14 senators who reached a compromise on filibusters last year says he won’t support it, according to an AP report.

"I would consider that not only not an extraordinary circumstance, but a threat to the independence of the judiciary, and I would stop it in its tracks with my vote," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said.

The group of lawmakers said they would allow votes on President Bush’s pro-life appeals court judges in exchange for not changing Senate rules to prevent filibusters. The group agreed to not support a filibuster unless there was "an extraordinary circumstance."

Most of the members of the group of seven Democrats and seven Republicans appeared to be persuaded by private meetings with Alito over the last two months that his nomination didn’t warrant a filibuster.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed with Graham and told CNN’s "Late Edition," he has not seen "any rational basis for filibustering Judge Alito."

Specter had originally called for a committee vote on January 17 but Senate Democrats have said they may invoke their right to hold the vote for a week.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the committee, told CBS’ "Face the Nation" that such a move could happen if Alito refuses to answer questions his party considers important.

However, AP reports that Sen. John Cornyn, a pro-life Texas Republican and former state Supreme Court judge, told NBC’s "Meet the Press" that Alito would not likely answer how he would rule on abortion because he would prejudice himself from deciding future cases.

"I expect you’ll hear from him what we heard from Chief Justice John Roberts. And that is, he respects the decision under the principles of stare decisis," said Cornyn.

Though such principles involve respect for prior Supreme Court precedents, "That’s not an impenetrable wall toward reconsideration of a previous decision under the Constitution," Cornyn explained.

On Monday Alito is scheduled to have breakfast at the White House with President Bush and will head to the Senate where members of the committee will make opening statements. Alito is expected to undergo two to three days of questioning and then witnesses on both side will have a chance to comment on his nomination.

The president nominated Alito to replace retiring pro-abortion Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who is one of six members to support Roe v. Wade and was the deciding vote on overturning a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortions.

TAKE ACTION: Contact members of the Senate and express your opinion about Samuel Alito’s nomination. You can find contact information for all senators at: