Slowing down Alito

Robert Novak
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Posted: Nov 05, 2005 12:05 AM

WASHINGTON -- The January scheduling of Judge Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, instead of December as desired by President Bush, was caused in part by political needs of Republican senators facing opposition for re-election.

 Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Mike DeWine of Ohio are supporters of Alito. But each wanted to get home in December to prepare for strong Democratic challenges.

 A footnote: The Alito nomination could help Sen. Rick Santorum's uphill fight for re-election in Pennsylvania. His Democratic opponent, State Treasurer Bob Casey, like Santorum is Catholic and pro-life and now will have to take a stand on the pro-life, Catholic Alito. In Rhode Island, Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who has vowed to vote against any anti-Roe v. Wade nominee replacing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, could face trouble in a contested Republican primary if he votes against Alito.

MONEY FOR MCCAIN

 Sen. John McCain, a potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate, has gotten a tepid response to a New York City fund-raiser Monday for his "Straight Talk America" political action committee.

 McCain signed a Sept. 27 letter announcing his appearance at the St. Regis Hotel Nov. 7. The price was $1,000 per person for a 6 p.m. reception and $5,000 per person for a 7:30 p.m. dinner.

 Many New York contributors to McCain's 2000 presidential campaign were reluctant to attend this year's event. The fact McCain will be 72 years old for the 2008 presidential campaign was cited to explain lack of enthusiasm, as was the senator's support for the Iraq war.

DEMOCRATIC DEFECTOR

 Second-term Rep. Jim Marshall of Georgia, facing a serious Republican challenge next year, was the only Democrat Thursday to break party ranks and vote against his party's pressure for tougher congressional oversight of Iraq.

 House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's resolution demanded investigation of "abuses" arising out of the Iraq war. The resolution obviously would fail in the Republican-controlled House, but Democratic leaders wanted a unanimous party-line vote. Five Democrats voted against the Pelosi resolution at various points, but all were pulled back with the exception of Marshall.

 Marshall, a former mayor of Macon, Ga., squeaked through in a newly created district in 2002 and was re-elected easily in 2004. The district has been made more Republican for 2006 because of redistricting, and Marshall will face a formidable foe in former Rep. Mac Collins.

TAXING OIL

 The National Taxpayers Union recruited 257 economists, including two winners of the Nobel prize, to sign a letter to all members of Congress that opposes a tax on windfall oil profits. The proposal has been attracting key Republican support with Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, joining Democrats in pressing the new tax.

 The letter's signatories are headed by the two Nobel laureates: Milton Friedman of the Hoover Institution and Edward C. Prescott of Arizona State University.

 The letter pointed out that the 1980 windfall profits tax entailed large compliance costs but yielded almost no revenue before it was repealed by Congress in 1988. Reenactment of the tax, said the letter, "can be predicted to result in a diminution of domestic energy production, an increase in American dependence on foreign oil and a reduction in the overall supplies available to consumers."

MURDERING RESEARCHERS

 Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, at an Oct. 26 hearing drew from an animal rights activist an admission that he advocated murder of medical researchers who performed experiments on animals.

 Dr. Jerry Vlasak of North American Animal Liberation was quoted as saying at an animal rights convention: "I don't think you'd have to kill, assassinate too many. I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, or 10 million non-human lives."

 Questioned by Inhofe whether he was "advocating the murder of individuals," Vlasak replied: "I made that statement, and I stand by that statement."