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Obama offers a plan for court nominees

Alito hearings stir a call on 'values'

WASHINGTON -- To more effectively oppose Supreme Court nominees in the future, Democrats must convince the public that ''their values are at stake" rather than use stalling tactics to try to thwart the president, said Senator Barack Obama, who opposes the confirmation of Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Obama, an Illinois Democrat, predicted yesterday that an effort to try to block a final vote on Alito would fail today. That would clear the way for Senate approval tomorrow of the federal appeals court judge from New Jersey, whom President Bush picked to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring.

Democrats have voiced fear that Alito would shift the court rightward on abortion rights, affirmative action, the death penalty, and other issues.

''We need to recognize, because Judge Alito will be confirmed, that, if we're going to oppose a nominee that we've got to persuade the American people that, in fact, their values are at stake," Obama said.

''There is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers," he said on ABC's ''This Week."

Senators John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts are urging other Democrats to support a filibuster, citing in part Alito's conservative record on abortion and his deference to executive power. Alito's supporters must produce 60 votes to cut off a filibuster; a tally has found at least 62 votes.

That tally also found that at least 53 Republicans and three Democrats intend to vote to confirm Alito; that is well over the required majority.

The three Democratic senators who have endorsed Alito's confirmation are Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. All three represent Republican-leaning states. And Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, another Democrat, has signaled that he is likely to vote for Alito.

President Bush said Saturday, in his weekly radio address, that senators should have an up-or-down vote on a nominee ''who understands that the role of a judge is to strictly interpret the law."

Obama cast Alito as a judge ''who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values."

But Obama joined some Democrats, including the minority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Charles E. Schumer of New York, in expressing his unhappiness with the filibuster bid.

''There's one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court are judges that reflect our values. And that's to win elections," Obama said.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, said over the weekend that she would join the filibuster effort.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democrat of Delaware, said yesterday that he, too, would support the filibuster attempt, but he said it was not particularly wise.

''I think a filibuster makes sense when you have a prospect of actually succeeding," Biden said on CNN's ''Late Edition."

''I will vote one time to say to continue the debate, but the truth of the matter" is that Alito will be confirmed, he said.

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