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Senator Ben Nelson Explains Why He's Supporting Judge Alito

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," January 17, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court on January 24th. Then the full Senate will begin debate the following day. Joining us now, in a "Hannity & Colmes" exclusive, is the first Democrat to publicly endorse Judge Alito's nomination, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson.

Senator, what assures you that he would be a good Supreme Court justice specifically?

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: Well, after careful consideration, I've decided to vote for Judge Alito because of his accomplished judicial career, secondly, because of the strong recommendation of the American Bar Association, and, finally, because of his commitment not to become a judicial activist and not to take a political or a personal agenda to the bench, but to be an adjudicator, not a legislator.

COLMES: How do you know he's going to do it that way?

NELSON: Well, I have to take him at his word at the moment. And he's had a lengthy judicial career, where the committee and others have poured over his decisions. And people may not have agreed with the results and they may have different ideas about how he decided them, but I think that he will take to the bench his decision-making, based on facts and based on cases.

COLMES: Do you have any concerns that the criticisms, which has come his way, that he often taken — most often taken the side of government, of big business, not been a champion of individual liberties, questioned use of the 14th Amendment and said it should be, you know, used under extreme circumstances. Does any of this concern you?

NELSON: Well, I think you have to be concerned about any time somebody goes to the bench, whether or not they want to be a judicial activist. But I had strong assurances from him that he does not want to go to the bench and become a legislator. He doesn't want to be a judicial activist. He doesn't want to be somebody that makes law but helps decide law based on cases.

And people are going to disagree with decisions on cases up and down the line. I probably wouldn't agree with every decision that he's made either. But what I am most interested in is not having him go to the bench and try to make the law rather than apply the law.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: I think, Senator, when he sided with Planned Parenthood in that abortion, he proved that he was exactly that type of person.

Senator, are you at all unhappy or uncomfortable at the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee, their treatment of Judge Alito? And what were your thoughts when his wife was crying behind him?

NELSON: Well, I think our hearts go out to Mrs. Alito and the discomfort she experienced. And I would say that that probably has happened more than once to every elected official, everybody running for office. It's harder on the family than it is on the person.

And without justifying or siding that this was misbehavior on the part of anybody, I think you have to give a recognition to — this is a lifetime appointment. It's a very serious obligation that Judge Alito would be taking on. And so there will be some strong disagreement.

But it is hardest on the family. And I think people probably forget that or don't think about it. It's true in politics, as well now in the area of judicial appointments.

HANNITY: Did they go too far? Did they push to far? Was their innuendo too great?

NELSON: Well, I think they were serious in their efforts to try to get to the bottom of cases and try to do their best so that no stone was left unturned. And people will have different ideas about how far they went or whether they went too far.

But I do think we understand now that politics has become a contact sport, and judicial nominations fall into that field, as well.

HANNITY: You were one of the members of the so-called Gang of 14, this memorandum of understanding that you had. Chuck Schumer is one person that's still holding out the possibility of a filibuster. In any way does — could you see anybody making the case for an extraordinary circumstance in this case? And what do you think about the Democratic Party's, well, sort of — they broke this agreement to have this vote today?

NELSON: I didn't catch the last part, broke the agreement on...

HANNITY: There was supposed to be a vote today. There was an understanding.

NELSON: Oh, I see now. Well, I haven't followed that as closely as others may have, because I think it's a matter for the Judiciary Committee internal, and I typically don't get too much involved in the internal politics of individual committees, unless I'm on them.

HANNITY: What about the filibuster?

NELSON: But the other question, in terms of moving forward and having things develop, I think there won't be a filibuster. I've not heard very many people even talking about it. It does get mentioned from time to time. But even, I think as the committee progressed, Senator Feinstein said she saw no reason for...

COLMES: Senator, we only got 10 seconds. Any other Democrats that you know will vote the way you're going to vote?

NELSON: I don't know. I don't know.

HANNITY: Good answer.

COLMES: All right. Thank you for being with us.

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