A senior Senate GOP aide provides this update on Senate floor action on Alito’s nomination:
“Reid’s people approached Frist’s staff with an Alito offer late this afternoon. Alito would be able to come out of committee on Thursday, January 19th, in exchange for an indication that Alito debate could start the week after — but that Alito’s final confirmation vote wouldn’t happen until February 1 or 2. Furious, Frist shot that down. Tomorrow, Reid and his people are likely to try to float another variation of this slowdown scheme, and Frist will have none of it. He is prepared to put the hammer on this thing down and get it started as soon as it comes out of the committee, even if the Democrats hold the markup over all the way to January 24th (which they have the right to do under committee rules). Frist wanted the nomination done in December, maneuvered it to be as early as possible in January, and isn’t inclined to take a kiss-your-sister promise of early February as some sort of reasonable Beltway compromise. Those days are over.”
Just one comment on the committee Democrats’ “right” to hold over the markup for a week: In his opening comments on Tuesday, Chairman Specter firmly stated his expectation that, absent “something extraordinary,” the committee vote on Alito would take place next Tuesday, January 17. In other words, Specter clearly believed that he had a deal with Leahy, even if there was not a formal waiver of the right to hold over the markup. Nothing extraordinary has happened, so let’s hope that Specter, who has been a model of fairness and firmness, doesn’t let himself be bullied or cheated by Leahy and has the markup next Tuesday. That would enable Senator Frist to adhere to his long-planned date of January 20 for a final vote on confirmation.