Alito testing Senate comfort level

Nov. 3, 2005 at 8:44 AM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Following a series of courtesy calls with U.S. senators, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito received a thumbs-up from at least one Democrat.

Alito has been meeting with senators since President Bush nominated him to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Sandra Day O'Connor's desire to retire. The traditional meetings are meant to warm senators to the nominee and get a feeling for the likelihood the nomination will be confirmed.

While confirmation hearings have not been scheduled, key in the process are visits to the so-called Gang of 14, which brokered a deal to stop Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees.

Gang of 14 member Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., met Alito Wednesday, saying afterward: "At this point in time, I have a comfort level that I'm satisfied with. I'm anxious to see the rest of the hearing process work and whole confirmation process unfold."

The Washington Times reported, however, said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has called for a filibuster and at least three other senators have said that ploy remains a Democratic option.

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