Senate cuts off debate on Alito

Bush's nominee needed 60 votes for cloture. He got 72, including 19 Democrats.

Published January 30, 2006 10:32PM (EST)

The Senate has just voted to cut off debate on the nomination of Samuel Alito, eliminating the Democrats' last chance at preventing George W. Bush's nominee from taking a seat on the United States Supreme Court.

The Republicans needed 60 votes to prevail on Bill Frist's cloture motion. They got 72. According to the AP's tally, 19 Democrats voted in favor of cloture -- which is to say, against a filibuster: Daniel Akaka, Max Baucus, Jeff Bingaman, Robert Byrd, Maria Cantwell, Tom Carper, Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan, Daniel Inouye, Tim Johnson, Herb Kohl, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller and Ken Salazar.

There were no defections among Democrats with an eye on the White House in 2008: John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold, Evan Bayh and Joe Biden all kept faith with the base by voting to continue debate.

With the cloture motion and any threat of a filibuster behind them, senators will vote on Alito's nomination at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Fifty-seven senators have already announced their support for Alito, meaning that he will be confirmed just in time for Bush to celebrate his victory in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Marcia Greenberger, the co-president of the National Womens Law Center, said the cloture vote "augers ill for women's fundamental rights and freedoms," and she said she was "profoundly disappointed that there were not enough votes" to block Alito's confirmation from coming to a vote. People for the American Way President Ralph Neas sounded a similar note, saying that it's "excruciatingly disappointing that more senators did not consider Alitos record sufficient reason to join" the filibuster fight Kerry and Ted Kennedy led.

Kerry said he'd do it all again. "This was a fight over principle," he said in statement released just after the vote. "Trying everything in our power to stop an ideological coup on the Supreme Court was the right thing to do ... We knew we faced steep odds, but we also knew that once Judge Alito becomes Justice Alito, there's no turning back the Senate confirmation vote ... This was a debate worth having, and a debate we had no choice but to have today."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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