A week’s delay in voting on the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court gives vital days for an all-out push to block Alito, progressive groups say.

After wrangling with the GOP leadership, Senate Democrats won the delay, which sets the Senate Judiciary Committee vote for Jan. 24. That is one day after the Jan. 23 anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital to defend women’s reproductive rights. If the nomination passes the committee, it will reach the full Senate by Jan. 31.

The National Organization for Women appealed for phone calls urging senators to filibuster if needed to block Alito’s confirmation. NOW President Kim Gandy said, “Senators must not ‘roll the dice’ and vote on a hope and a prayer that he will not take the country in a dangerous direction with rulings that will affect the lives of millions.”

MoveOn.org sent out a mass e-mail urging phone calls to senators. “We’re aiming to make 10,000 calls to break through the spin and ask them to do what it takes to keep Alito off the court,” organizer Ben Brandzel wrote.

Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, said in a statement, “The evidence is stronger than ever that Judge Alito should not be confirmed to our nation’s highest court.” More than 1 million Americans have already signed petitions opposing Alito, “and that’s just a start. The fight has just begun.”

“We hope to go from 1 million petitions to a couple of million by the time the committee votes,” Neas told the Christian Science Monitor. PFAW is also launching new television and radio ads “to express to the American people the magnitude of what is at stake.”

“Nothing is over until it’s over,” Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center told the Monitor, responding to the media drumbeat that approval of Alito was a “done deal.” She said, “What’s really important is to let the dust settle a little and to let the implications of these hearings settle in.”

Alito’s evasion of direct answers on key issues, undoubtedly carefully orchestrated by Bush aides, is drawing wide anger.

Judiciary Committee member Joe Biden (D-Del.) commented on NBC’s Today show that nominees “come before the U.S. Congress and resolve not to let the people know what they think about the important issues.”

It is seen as White House manipulation of the confirmation process, blocking the Senate’s constitutional checks-and-balances role in lifetime appointments to the nation’s top court.

“Judge Alito’s steadfast refusal to give answers should give every senator, Democrat or Republican, real pause,” Gandy said in a statement.

“Alito bobbed, weaved and sidestepped question after question, even when asked repeatedly about his views on Roe v. Wade and a constitutional right to privacy,” Gandy said. “This kind of evasion distorts the purpose of the hearings.”

Alito’s record is seen as documenting a pattern of hostility to women’s rights, civil rights, workers’ rights and civil liberties comparable to the extremist right-wing views of Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. It shows “a clear pattern of siding against individuals and for powerful institutions, and a troubling willingness to look the other way in the face of abuses of power by the president and other government agencies and officials,” said Neas.

“Alito came into the confirmation hearings with the difficult burden of demonstrating that, in spite of his record to the contrary, Americans would be able to count on him to uphold their rights, legal protections, and access to justice. He failed to meet that burden.”

During the battle over the John Roberts nomination last year, a bipartisan agreement by 14 senators ruled out a filibuster except in “extraordinary circumstances.” The urgent challenge for progressive Americans is to move their senators into “extraordinary circumstances” mode.

“It’s hard to get people to understand what the court means in their daily lives,” Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families (formerly the Women’s Legal Defense Fund), told the Monitor.

In a statement last month, Ness said, “When President Bush proposed to give one of the country’s most conservative jurists a lifetime appointment on our highest court, he put his allegiance to the far right ahead of the best interests of the nation. And he gave senators a stark choice: support the president, or stand up for the women and working families they represent.”

As the Jan. 24 Senate Judiciary vote approaches, says Gandy, “the real fight has just begun, and it’s a full court press.”


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.