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Senate 'Gang of 14' compromise group may split over Alito nomination

[JURIST] Only days after President Bush nominated Judge Samuel Alito [JURIST news archive] to a seat on the US Supreme Court [official website], the group of 14 senators who helped diffuse a Senate showdown over judicial nominees showed signs of splitting. Known as the "Gang of 14," the influential group of seven Republicans and seven Democrats offered diverging opinions on Alito and whether a Democratic filibuster was a possibility in what is expected to be a heated hearings process. Republican Sens. Mike DeWine and Lindsay Graham [official websites] both have warned Democrats not to consider filibustering [JURIST report] the nomination, a sign that they may be willing to abandon the agreement on filibusters [JURIST report] struck last spring by the group. Under the compromise, Democrats agreed to allow votes on President Bush's judicial nominations and to reserve filibusters for "extraordinary circumstances." Losing DeWine and Graham leaves the centrist group with less support and makes it more likely that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist [official website] would have sufficient votes to eliminate the filibuster in the event that Senate Democrats seek to use it against Alito. Some Democrats are urging others to temper talk of a filibuster this early in the process. Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson [official website], one of the Gang of 14, met with Alito Wednesday, and Nelson said Alito had reassured him that he was not a judicial activist. The meetings between Alito and Democrats are part of a White House effort to court moderate Democratic votes [NYT report, registration required] for the nomination, including Sens. Tim Johnson and Mark Pryor. However, none of the three senators is on the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website]. AP has more.

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