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Major battle unlikely from Democrats on Roberts

WASHINGTON -- Democrats have decided that unless there is an unexpected development in the weeks ahead, they will not launch a major fight to block the Supreme Court nomination of John G. Roberts Jr., according to legislators, Senate aides, and party strategists.

In a series of interviews in recent days, more than a dozen Democratic senators and aides who are intimately involved in deliberations about strategy said that they see no evidence that most Democratic senators are prepared to expend political capital in what is seen as a likely futile effort to derail Roberts.

Although they expect to subject President Bush's nominee to tough questioning at confirmation hearings next month, members of the minority party said they do not plan to marshal any concerted campaign against Roberts because they have concluded that he is likely to get at least 70 votes -- enough to overrule parliamentary tactics such as a filibuster that could block the nominee.

''No one's planning all-out warfare," said a Senate Democratic aide closely involved in caucus strategy on Roberts. For now, the aide said, Democratic strategy is to make it clear Roberts was subject to fair scrutiny while avoiding a pointless conflagration that could backfire on the party.

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