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Democrat joins GOP senator against Alito filibuster

Feinstein sides with Graham

WASHINGTON -- A Democrat who plans to vote against Samuel Alito yesterday sided with a Republican colleague on the Senate Judiciary Committee in cautioning against a filibuster of the Supreme Court nominee.

''I do not see a likelihood of a filibuster," said Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. ''This might be a man I disagree with, but it doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the court."

Feinstein said she will not vote to confirm the appeals court judge, based on his conservative record. But she acknowledged that nothing emerged during last week's hearings to justify any organized action by Democrats to stall the nomination.

''If there's a filibuster of this man based on his qualifications, there would be a huge backlash in this country," said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

Graham is one of 14 centrist senators who defused the Senate's showdown over judicial filibusters last year, saying such a tactic is justified only under extraordinary circumstances.

The committee's top Democrat, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said last week that unidentified Democrats will ''exercise their rights" to delay a committee vote that Republicans sought for tomorrow.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada has called on party members to hold off making a decision until after a meeting Wednesday.

Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, appearing on ''Fox News Sunday," would not rule out a filibuster, saying committee Democrats were still going through the hearing transcripts and awaiting answers to written questions.

But Feinstein, who said she was concerned about Alito's conservative record on abortion rights and deference to executive power, acknowledged that the 15-year appellate judge had the legal credentials to serve on the Supreme Court.

''I was impressed with his ability to maintain a very even demeanor," she added, on CBS's ''Face the Nation."

All 10 Republicans on the committee have announced their support for Alito, a 55-year-old former prosecutor and Reagan administration lawyer who is President Bush's choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Likewise, the Senate's 55 Republicans are expected to line up strongly behind Alito.

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