AP: Alito Appears Headed for Confirmation

AP’s Jesse Holland says Alito Appears Headed for Confirmation.

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito seemed headed Thursday toward Senate confirmation, defending his judicial record to skeptical Democrats and praising the justice he would replace — Sandra Day O’Connor. “I would try to emulate her dedication and her integrity and her dedication to the case-by-case process of adjudication,” Alito told the Senate Judiciary Committee on his fourth and final day of confirmation hearings.

The federal judge answered senators’ questions for 18 hours, prompting Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to say Alito “demonstrated remarkable patience and remarkable stamina.”


Democrats have not ruled out the possibility of a filibuster that could require supporters to post 60 votes in the 100-member chamber. Judiciary Committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein has indicated a filibuster is unlikely and at least one conservative Democrat — Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson — is leaning toward backing Alito. Nelson said Thursday that he has seen nothing that would disqualify the nominee.

Aside from Alito’s praise of O’Connor, whose rulings have not made her popular with conservatives, the only interesting news today is that Alito weighed into the Schiavo matter:

[H]he told the panel that Americans have a right to designate family members or friends to carry out their right-to-die wishes, an issue pushed to the forefront last year by the case of a brain-damaged Florida woman. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, cited the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who was at the center of a fierce fight between her husband and family over her fate that involved the courts, Congress and even the president. Leahy asked: If a person has a living will, could he designate someone to decide whether to use extraordinary measures to keep him alive?

“Yes, that’s, I think, an extension of the traditional right that I was talking about that existed under common law, and it’s been developed by state legislatures, and in some instances, state courts to deal with the living will situation and advances … in medical technology, which create new issues in this area,” Alito said.

Schiavo suffered a brain injury in 1990 that left her in what some doctors called a “persistent vegetative state.” Her parents sought to keep her feeding tube in place while her husband wanted to have it removed, citing her wishes and setting off a bitter court battle. Congress, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his brother, the president, all sought to have the feeding tube reinserted. Schiavo died on March 31.

That strikes me as reasonable enough but, harkening back to my discussion yesterday with Kevin Drum, this hardly seems a matter of settled law. The Schiavo case, certainly, was adjudicated as nauseum. But there are surely “right to die” issues to be settled before the Court.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.