WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush nominated Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court yesterday, hoping to usher in a historic new era of judicial conservatism while ending a Republican divide that doomed an earlier pick.

Sarah Royce
President Bush announces judge Samuel Alito as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court in the Cross Hall of the White House yesterday. (AP PHOTO)

Members of the Senate’s Democratic minority signaled a potentially bruising confirmation battle ahead, with abortion a key issue. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the party’s leader, asked whether Alito was “too radical for the American people” and wondered aloud “why those who want to pack the court with judicial activists are so much more enthusiastic about him” than Harriet Miers.

Bush, naming a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor four days after Miers withdrew her name, said Alito “has a deep understanding of the proper role of judges in our society.”

“He understands that judges are to interpret the laws, not to impose their preferences or priorities on the people,” the president said. Within hours, Alito collected support from many of the critics who had opposed Miers.

Alito’s politically conservative views were not in dispute. “Of course he’s against abortion,” his 90-year-old mother, Rose, told reporters at her home in Hamilton, N.J.

Despite the unguarded comments of a proud mother, Sen. Arlen Specter, who will chair Judiciary Committee hearings, told reporters in the Capitol, “There is a lot more to do with a woman’s right to choose than how you feel about it personally.”

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