Tim Johnson, the Democratic senator from South Dakota, announced this morning that he'll cast a vote in favor of confirming Samuel Alito. While there may be little real-world difference between voting for Alito and voting against him but refusing to filibuster, Johnson's decision -- together with that of Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson -- gives the Bush administration a little more room to claim that Alito has "bipartisan" support and makes it harder for other Democrats to paint Alito as a wholly unacceptable nominee.
Johnson didn't sound particularly thrilled with the Alito nomination, but he argued -- based on what constitutional rule, we're not entirely clear -- that senators shouldn't vote against a judicial nominee unless his views are more "radical" than this one. "I am troubled by Judge Alito's apparent views on matters such as executive power, his past opposition to the principle of one person, one vote, and his narrow interpretation of certain civil rights laws," Johnson said. "Even so, I cannot accept an argument that his views are so radical that the Senate is justified in denying his confirmation."
Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.