WASHINGTON -- Two Democrats who supported Chief Justice John Roberts said yesterday that they would oppose Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito in next week's Senate vote.
Alito is expected to be confirmed, but with fewer votes than the 78 Roberts got in September.
Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Ken Salazar of Colorado both questioned whether Alito would be independent of President Bush and the executive branch in his future rulings.
''At a time when the president is seizing unprecedented power, the Supreme Court needs to act as a check and to provide balance," Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a speech at Georgetown University's law school. ''Based on the hearing and his record, I have no confidence that Judge Alito would provide that check and balance."
Added Salazar in a statement: ''Judge Alito would place too much power in the hands of the president of the United States, at the cost of the protective system of checks and balances built into our Constitution.
The Judiciary Committee, which has 10 Republicans and eight Democrats, is expected to approve Alito's nomination Tuesday in a party-line vote. The full Senate is expected to debate and vote on the nomination that same week.
Leahy, Salazar, and Max Baucus of Montana -- who announced his opposition to Alito on Wednesday -- were three of the 22 Democrats who voted for Roberts' confirmation as the replacement for the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, a conservative.
Alito is not expected to get that much support from the Senate's 44 Democrats. He was nominated by Bush as the replacement for retiring moderate Sandra Day O'Connor.
Several other Democrats are opposing Alito, including Tom Harkin of Iowa, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.
Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska is the only Democrat to announce that he will vote for Alito's confirmation next week.
None of the Senate's 55 Republicans has announced opposition to Alito. Most, if not all, of them are expected to vote for his confirmation. They all voted for Roberts.
Senator Jim Jeffords, a Vermont Independent, has not announced how he will vote.
Alito visited yesterday with Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, and Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat. Carper and Menendez have not taken positions on Alito's nomination
Senators John Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, and John Warner, Republican of Virginia, announced their support for Alito after meeting with him yesterday.