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Conservative Senator to Set Tone for Republicans in Supreme Court Nomination Fight

Republicans have indicated that Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will become the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee - the committee that could eventually block President Barack Obama's nominee to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. 

Sessions replaces Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who recently crossed the aisle to join the Democrats after a long career as a Republican.
Sessions has a reputation as a fiercely conservative Southern Republican senator, and has been outspoken and adopted hard-line stances on issues like immigration and affirmative action. 

Sessions also has extensive experience as a jurist, having served as a prosecutor and Alabama attorney general prior to winning a Senate seat in 1996.

Interestingly, Sessions was on his way to a seat on the bench as a U.S. district court judge before the Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination amidst charges of racial insensitivity and hostility to civil rights.  Ironically, Sen. Specter's vote was decisive, as he was one of only two Republicans who voted against Sessions' nomination.

The move signals that Republicans aren't concerned with perceptions that their party is moving too far to the right, which was one of the reasons Specter gave for his defection.  Sessions' refusal to rule out a Republican filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee also shows that Republicans aren't worried about becoming known as a party of obstructionists, even after two party-line rejections of the stimulus and budget packages supported by President Obama that passed under the Democratic majority.

In another ironic twist, Sessions spoke out against filibusters in the Judiciary Committee during the nomination of now-Justice Samuel Alito, calling them "very painful." 

Apparently, his opinion has changed now that he's leading the minority party in the committee.

See Also:
Conservative to lead GOP fight on court nomination (AP)
Jeff Sessions Demanded Up-Or-Down Vote On Alito (The Huffington Post)