Well, the Senate voted this morning. Judge Samuel Alito has been confirmed in his nomination for the Supreme Court with a vote of 58-42, with all senators voting. It was entirely on party lines except for the crossover votes by Robert Byrd (D-WV), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Kent Contrad (D-ND), Tim Johnson (SD), and Ben Nelson (NE). As usual, Jim Jeffords (I-VT) voted with the Democrats. I imagine all the red-state Democrats who seemed as if they might vote for Alito decided that voting for cloture yesterday gives them cover as non-extremists. I suspect that won't be enough for some of them, though. Justice Alito
is expected to take has already taken his two vows today [this happened before I submitted this post, but I discovered it afterward]. He is officially Justice Alito now, and he is expected to appear publicly for the first time as a Justice of the Supreme Court in robes at the State of the Union this evening. A formal investiture ceremony will take place but has not been announced yet.
I have two observations about this whole process, which I think together lead to a very interesting conclusion:
1. This isn't as close as the vote for Clarence Thomas, which was 52-48, but that was under a Democratic Senate. More Democrats supported Thomas than Alito. Alito got 4. Thomas got 11. That Senate did include such Democrats as John Breaux and Zell Miller, however. There are no Democrats in today's Senate who are that conservative (though Byrd comes close on judicial issues, and Lieberman comes close on foreign policy issues).
2. Most of the views they've been complaining about are views that are close enough to Justice O'Connor's that all the rhetoric about how extreme his views are is really at odds with all the rhetoric about changing balance on the court. His views on federalism, criminal prosecution, religious freedom, capital punishment, and several other issues. His views on abortion aren't clearly any rightward of hers. She's expressed as much opposition to abortion as he has. She overturned the reasoning behind Roe v. Wade as unconstitutional. She thinks abortion can be limited in many ways that groups like NARAL have criticized Alito for allowing. He opposed overturning Roe outright, which is exactly what her decision in Casey refused to do. He's more conservative in enough ways that I'd call him a solid conservative as opposed to her being a moderate (a more conservative moderate than Justice Kennedy, as it happens). But on substantive issues I'm not sure he's much more conservative than her on many of the very issues the Democrats have been raising.