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Democrats Step Up Opposition To Alito As Hearings Approach

By Carl Hulse 
and David D. Kirkpatrick


New disclosures about Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s positions on abortion are stiffening Democratic resistance and complicating the nomination for moderates in both parties as the Senate moves toward a Supreme Court confirmation fight in a charged election-year atmosphere.

Senators and senior aides said Thursday that a newly released Reagan administration memorandum from 1985 laying out Alito’s strategy for weakening the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade abortion ruling has intensified Democratic skepticism toward the nominee not just on abortion rights, but on whether he is being forthcoming.

“Certainly the chance of a filibuster is greater today than it was the day Alito was nominated because of so many new revelations,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Thursday.

He also sent Alito a letter asking him to explain why his participation in the Supreme Court case while working in the Justice Department was not disclosed in his responses to a Senate questionnaire.

Schumer and other Democrats say a judgment on whether the emerging record on Alito is sufficient to provoke a filibuster will hinge on the nominee’s performance during confirmation hearings scheduled to start early next month.

But they say the combination of the Alito’s strong writings on abortion and questions surrounding his handling of other issues have increased the hearings’ importance.

“This moves this very much into a much more controversial nomination,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who faulted Alito both for his views and his failure to mention the case in his responses to the Senate.

New information continued to surface Thursday as past speeches by Alito that became public showed among other things a strong deference to presidential power.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Judiciary committee and one of the handful of Republicans who support abortion rights, said Thursday he did not think this week’s disclosure of the abortion memorandum “materially or significantly changes the political dynamics of the Senate.”

“I do not believe there is a basis for a filibuster here and this is the critical point,” Specter said.