Building on what we reported yesterday, Republicans were thrilled with the first day of questioning by Judiciary Committee members of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.
“He held up very well late into the day, which is something we were concerned about,” says a committee staffer.
The same cannot be said for the Democratic members of the committee. According to several Democratic staffers, they were taken aback by the tone and line of questioning Sen. Russ Feingold took with Alito. “That wasn’t part of the game plan,” one staffer told us last night. “During the lunchbreak his staff said that he was extremely unhappy about the morning session, very frustrated and angry that Kennedy and Biden weren’t pushing harder.”
The result: one of the more embarrassing performances in recent memory. Feingold essentially called a Supreme Court nominee a dupe for the White House, and grilled Alito on his preparation sessions with White House staff.
“We didn’t know he was going to do it, and if we had, we’d have advised him not to go that route,” says another Democratic staffer on the committee of Feingold. “We knew that this was going to be a challenging hearing, because the private meetings with Alito across the board had gone well with our members. He’s a serious guy, and our members came away impressed, so we knew that he’d be formidable. We just didn’t expect our guys to perform so poorly.”
Things can change, but there is a clear sense among Democrats that there is almost no way they could possible mount a filibuster against Alito at this point. “It just hasn’t gone the way we would have hoped. They [the White House and Republican committee staff] have just done a good job, and the nominee has been very strong. That’s it.”
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