Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court is gliding toward confirmation despite a week of hearings in which Democrats tried and failed to hobble his prospects with withering questions on abortion, presidential power and ethics.
Democrats argue that the former Reagan administration lawyer is likely to tip the court's balance to the right in replacing centrist Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
But with little success so far peeling votes from Alito's confirmation as the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice, Democrats showed little appetite for mounting a filibuster on the Senate floor. The confirmation hearings were set to resume yesterday morning.
Instead, they are seeking to slow Alito's ascension by demanding that the committee's chairman, Republican Senator Arlen Specter, delay the panel's vote by a week.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid "is urging all Democrats to refrain from committing to a vote either for or against confirmation prior to the caucus next Wednesday," Reid spokesman Jim Manley said on Thursday.
Specter, who had wanted a committee vote next Tuesday, told reporters on Thursday night that the date of a vote was up in the air. "It's been very hard to get a focus on that,'' he said.
Democrats want to give their caucus time to study the hearing transcripts, Manley said. Also to be considered is whether any reason exists to filibuster the nomination, but the chances of a filibuster happening appeared slim.
Any delay would do little to whittle support for Alito's confirmation.Republican senators, both on and off the committee, praised Alito, who has been a federal appeals court judge for the past 15 years, as his testimony ended on Thursday.
"I enthusiastically endorse and support Judge Alito's nomination," Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said.
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama noted to the judge that his high school friends "predicted you would serve on the Supreme Court one day, and I think that's going to turn out to be a good prediction."
A Democratic senator issued a positive comment as well.
"So far I have seen nothing during my interview with the nominee, the background materials that have been produced or through the committee process that I would consider a disqualifying issue against Judge Alito," Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska said.
Other senior Democrats have not said how they would vote, including three Judiciary Committee members who voted for Chief Justice John Roberts last fall: ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Wisconsin senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold.
Democrats face an uphill battle in finding enough votes to filibuster Alito's nomination -- the only way they can stop him. It takes 41 votes to sustain a filibuster, and there are 44 Democrats and one Democratic-leaning independent in the Senate.
Several committee Democrats made it clear they were not inclined to vote for Alito, including Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles Schumer of New York.
After four days of hearings, there are "even more questions about Judge Alito's commitment to the fairness and equality for all," Kennedy said.