WASHINGTON -- The Republican-controlled Senate will begin hearings Jan. 9 on Judge Samuel Alito's appointment to the Supreme Court, leaders of the Judiciary Committee announced Thursday, a bipartisan repudiation of President Bush's call for a final confirmation vote before year's end.
"It simply wasn't possible to accommodate the schedule that the White House wanted," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He outlined a timetable that envisions five days of hearings, followed by a vote in committee on Jan. 17 and the full Senate on Jan. 20.
"It's far more important to do it right than fast," said Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the panel. "In this case, I suspect we're doing both."
The White House had no immediate reaction.
There was no evidence that the scheduling decision signaled any deeper dissatisfaction with the nomination on the part of Republicans. "I think Judge Alito has made a very good first impression," said Specter.