WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are considering a plan that could delay a committee vote on Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination for at least a week, slowing what could have been a quick confirmation for President Bush's pick to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) had hoped to hold a committee vote on Alito's nomination Jan. 17, a little over a week from Monday's start of the federal appellate judge's confirmation hearings.
Senate leadership aides said Thursday that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) that Democrats would invoke their right to hold over the Alito committee vote for one week. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because the move had not been announced.
Democrats said a decision had not been made. "We want to see how the hearing goes, procedurally and substantially, before allowing them to accelerate the vote for a week," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a Judiciary Committee member.
A longer process can make confirmation tougher for a nominee, because opponents have more time to build momentum against the candidate.
Frist had been pushing for a Jan. 20 confirmation vote in the full Senate. That would have to be delayed if the Democrats followed through on their plan.
"Procedural gimmicks and partisan tricks will not stop the confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court, no matter how much extremist elements of the Democratic Party wish it so," a Frist spokesman said.
The Supreme Court is in recess until Feb. 21.