It's official. The U.S. Senate has just confirmed Samuel Alito as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court. The final vote was 58-42.
Alito got no votes from Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Vermont independent Jim Jeffords and 40 of 44 Senate Democrats. Ben Nelson, Robert Byrd, Kent Conrad and Tim Johnson were the Democrats who voted in favor of Alito's confirmation, but many more helped make it possible Monday by voting down an attempt to filibuster.
Searching for a silver lining, People for the American Way president Ralph Neas notes that Alito received the "second highest number of votes against a confirmed Supreme Court nominee in the nation's history." (Clarence Thomas, who made it to the bench on a 52-48 vote in 1991, is still the reigning champion.) But in the sort of honest assessment that seems to be escaping some on the left, Neas adds that "moral victories are not sufficient" and says that it's time to work "to ensure that someday soon there will be a progressive Senate that better represents the values and beliefs of a significant majority of the American people."
If anyone is still unclear on what Alito's confirmation means -- and there's an argument to be made that a lot of the public is -- the Los Angeles Times set it out in stark relief this morning:
"Twenty-five years ago, President Reagan came to Washington with bold plans to move the Supreme Court to the right. He and his lawyers wanted a high court that would uphold state laws that impose the death penalty, restrict abortion and allow a greater role for religion in public life. They favored property rights over environmental regulation, states' rights over broad federal authority and executive power over Congress and the federal courts. Now, with the Senate about to confirm Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., a second generation of Reagan disciples stands ready to fulfill the former president's vision for the court."