No Senate Democrat has outright opposed Alito so far, but the caucus has come under great pressure from liberal interest groups that fear he would push the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 that affirmed the right to have an abortion. "This weekend, we turned the clocks back one hour to observe Standard Time," said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of Emily's List, a group that finances female candidates who support abortion rights. "Monday morning, President Bush turned the clocks back 32 years with the nomination" of Alito.
Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.), who is positioning himself for a presidential run in 2008, said in an e-mail to supporters: "President Bush is making yet another divisive choice nominating Judge Samuel Alito to the highest court in the land."
Conservative supporters countered with a new television ad calling Alito "one of America's most respected judges" and a former prosecutor who went after "terrorists and corporate criminals."
Meanwhile, the White House released a letter signed by Alito in 2003, in which he asked that a 2002 ruling he made in favor of the Vanguard financial company be reconsidered by other judges. Alito wrote the letter after a widow, who Vanguard had blocked from obtaining access to her husband's accounts, sought to overturn the ruling on grounds that Alito had substantial investments in Vanguard funds.
"I do not believe that I am required to disqualify myself based on my ownership of the mutual fund shares. Nor do I believe that I am a party" to the lawsuit, Alito wrote. "However, it has always been my personal practice to recuse in any case in which any possible question might arise. Under the circumstances here, I am voluntarily recusing in this case."
Alito had promised the Senate in 1990 that after his confirmation to the appellate bench, he would disqualify himself from any lawsuit involving Vanguard. The White House said that he nonetheless had originally joined two other judges in deciding the case because of a "computer glitch" at the court that failed to detect his conflict of interest.
Staff writer R. Jeffrey Smith contributed to this report.