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Conservative Alito Is Bush...s New Supreme Court Nominee

By Christine Hauser
THE NEW YORK TIMES

President Bush nominated Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. for the Supreme Court Monday, four days after Bush’s previous choice withdrew.

The nomination is likely to please Bush’s conservative allies, whose sharp attacks on Harriet E. Miers were instrumental in prompting her to drop out last week. But the president is more likely to get a battle from Democrats and liberals who may believe Alito’s views are too extreme.

Bush described Alito, who sits on the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as having an “extraordinary breadth of experience” and as being “tough and fair.” Referring to the judge’s long career and current duties on the appeals court, the president said Alito now had “more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years.”

“I urge the Senate to act promptly so that an up or down vote is held before the end of this year,” Bush said at the White House, as he presented Alito as his nominee.

The president’s new effort to fill a second Supreme Court vacancy presents an opportunity for Bush to revitalize his political base and to put his mark on the court at a time when the White House is besieged on other fronts.

Public opinion polls show Bush’s popularity at a new low. American casualties continue to mount in Iraq, parts of the president’s domestic agenda are in limbo, and the White House is reeling from the indictment of a top aide, I. Lewis Libby Jr., which came a day after the withdrawal of Miers.

Alito, 55, speaking as his wife and two children looked on, said he had long held the Supreme Court “in reverence,” and reminisced about his first time arguing a case there, in 1982. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is retiring and whom he would replace, sensed that he was a “rookie,” he recalled of that first appearance, and made sure that the first question he was asked was a kind one. “I was grateful to her on that happy occasion, and I am particularly honored to be nominated for her seat,” he said.

He said he was also filled with a sense of awe for what the court stands for as an institution: equal justice under law.

Alito added that he looked forward to working with the Senate in the confirmation process.

Over the weekend, the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, D-Nevada, warned Bush in remarks on CNN not to pick Alito, saying such a move would make his Senate confirmation process problematic.

Monday, after the announcement was made, Reid said in a statement that he was disappointed in the choice for several reasons, noting that president had failed to consult with Senate Democrats, as he had before nominating Miers.

Reid said that he considered the Alito nomination as lacking in diversity for the court as well as perspective, in that Bush had chosen a man to replace one of the only two women to have ever sat on the court; had failed to choose a Hispanic (no person of Hispanic heritage has ever sat on the highest court); and that Alito’s background as a federal appellate judge was similar to that of eight other justices.

“President Bush would leave the Supreme Court looking less like America and more like an old boys’ club,” said Reid in a statement.