Robert Novak

 Although freshman Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar has removed his hold on the nomination, former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray is still being blocked by Democrats for confirmation as U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

 The unidentified senator now imposing the hold is believed to be Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, who did not return this column's call. The objection to Gray is a 2-year-old television ad by Gray's Committee for Justice accusing senators of blocking the confirmation of Judge William Pryor because he is Catholic.

 A footnote: Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Negroponte last Tuesday wrote Senate leaders pleading with them to confirm White House lawyer Benjamin A. Powell as the DNI office's general counsel. The unexplained Democratic hold on Powell, wrote Negroponte, "is hindering necessary transformation" of the Intelligence Community.


 Pennsylvania State Treasurer Bob Casey, running for the Senate as a pro-life Democrat, is maintaining a golden silence on the nomination of Judge Sam Alito even within his own party circles.

 A fellow Pennsylvania Democrat privately sought out Casey's views on Alito last week and was told the candidate had nothing to say. Sooner or later, however, Casey will have to take a stand on Alito, whose opinions on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have tended to be pro-life.

 As a mainstream Democrat, Casey will be under pressure to take a critical view of Alito by liberal groups waging an all-out campaign and promising to do anything to stop him. "You name it, we'll do it," said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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