Disappointing Bush, Senate sets Alito hearings for Jan.

WASHINGTON (BP)--Disappointing conservatives and President Bush, Senate leaders announced Nov. 4 that hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito will be held in January, and not this year as the president had hoped.

Bush and conservative groups had wanted to see Alito, 55, confirmed by the end of the year.

"It simply wasn't possible to accommodate the schedule that the White House wanted: before Christmas. It just couldn't be done. We have to do it right. We can't do it fast," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R.-Pa., said, according to Reuters.

Hearings are set to begin Jan. 9, with a floor vote scheduled to take place Jan. 20.

"I'm disappointed in the date but happy they do have a firm date for his confirmation hearing," Bush said Nov. 4 while in Argentina.

"Sam Alito Jr. is [an] incredibly intelligent, well-qualified person who should be on the court. I told the leadership I thought it would be best to have the hearings before Christmas. They didn't feel like they could get the job done,” the president said.

The delay means retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- who Alito would replace -- will sit on the court into the new year. Much to conservatives' dismay, O'Connor will take part in oral arguments in a handful of controversial cases, including one concerning the constitutionality of a New Hampshire law requiring teens to notify a parent before getting an abortion. O'Connor supports abortion rights and has consistently voted on the side of pro-choicers.

But if Alito is confirmed before a ruling is handed down, O'Connor's vote would not count. If, without O'Connor's vote, the court is deadlocked at 4-4, then the court can choose to re-hear the case with Alito on the bench. Otherwise, a 4-4 decision allows the lower court decision to stand. The First Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the New Hampshire law.


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