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Published: Monday, 1/9/2006

DeWine gets political pressure from left-wing over Alito

BY JIM TANKERSLEY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The Senate Judiciary Committee opens its confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito today, and the pressure is on Mike DeWine again.

This time, though, it's from the left.

Mr. DeWine, a two-term Ohio Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee, drew conservatives' wrath last year for backing ill-fated Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers and compromising with Democrats on some of President Bush's most controversial lower-court appointments.

He quieted many of those critics - on judgeships, at least - with early and strong support for Mr. Alito, a federal appellate judge whom Mr. Bush nominated soon after Ms. Miers withdrew her name amidst vocal concerns from leading conservatives.

In a telephone interview this weekend, Mr. DeWine called Mr. Alito "a good pick" for the court. "I see no reason why I would not support him," he said.

Mr. DeWine is up for re-election this fall, and two Democrats vying to oppose him say they see plenty of reasons for the senator not to support Mr. Alito.

Sherrod Brown, a congressman from suburban Cleveland, has criticized Mr. Alito's rulings on a variety of worker-safety issues. Mr. Alito has shown little regard for workers, Mr. Brown said recently, and "I would hope that Mike takes notice of that."

The other Democrat in the race, attorney and Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, called Mr. Alito "a scary guy" this week for his alleged opposition to the "one-man, one-vote" principle of drawing legislative boundaries - a question that is likely to come up in the confirmation hearings.

"I think generally speaking, the guy's off-the-charts radical as far as his view of the Constitution and its application," Mr. Hackett said.

When asked about Mr. Alito, neither Mr. Hackett nor Mr. Brown raised the prehearing issues occupying most liberal activist groups: whether Mr. Alito would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and whether Mr. Alito would allow the Bush Administration to continue domestic wiretapping without a warrant.

Both Democrats said they expected rigorous questioning of the nominee during his hearings from Mr. DeWine and the other senators on the committee.

Mr. DeWine said his questions for Mr. Alito will likely resemble his questions for Chief Justice John Roberts, who won confirmation last fall, including issues of free speech and religion, congressional ability to regulate interstate commerce, and Supreme Court power to overrule Congress.

"In general, you want to know how he thinks, what his judicial philosophy is in the sense of how he approaches cases," Mr. DeWine said. "You get at that by asking about specific cases."

Mr. Alito, he added, will be "a very open, candid witness."

Mr. DeWine said he doesn't know or worry about how the hearings and his vote on Mr. Alito will affect re-election.

Conservative writers ripped Mr. DeWine last year for joining the so-called "Gang of 14" that helped to allow some of Mr. Bush's federal court nominees to win approval and others to be blocked by Democrats.

Few have questioned his support for Mr. Alito. Some criticize him for breaking with Republicans in votes against federal spending cuts and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Mr. Brown and Democratic pundits frequently accuse Mr. DeWine of voting in lock step with Mr. Bush on key issues.

A spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party said Mr. DeWine is doing what voters expect of him: Be his own man.



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