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Bingaman to Oppose Alito

By Michael Coleman
Journal Washington Bureau
    WASHINGTON— Sen. Jeff Bingaman said Thursday that he will oppose Samuel J. Alito's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court because he fears the judge could jeopardize hard-won protections provided to all Americans.
    The New Mexico Democrat said Alito is the wrong choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who cast moderate swing votes on privacy, disability and civil rights cases.
    Replacing O'Connor with the seemingly more conservative Alito would move the country "in the wrong direction," Bingaman said.
    "Judge Alito's confirmation will sway the existing balance on the court in a manner that will jeopardize protections afforded to the American public, many of which were the result of long years of struggle," the senator said.
    Bingaman's decision aligns him with a near-unanimous Democratic Senate caucus opposing Alito's confirmation. The full Senate is tentatively expected to vote Tuesday.
    Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, has called Alito, who was nominated by President Bush, highly qualified and said he will support him.
    Bingaman, up for re-election this year, said he worries that Alito would provide the president with too much power.
    "At a time when the president has asserted expansive powers with regard to imprisoning U.S. citizens without charge, wiretapping without warrants, and using interrogation techniques that amount to torture, it is essential that we have justices on the Supreme Court that are willing to provide a check on the authority of the executive branch," Bingaman said.
    Last year, Bingaman supported the nomination of John G. Roberts, a Bush appointee who was confirmed as chief justice of the Supreme Court.


E-MAIL writer Michael Coleman