By Gudrun Schultz

WASHINGTON, United States, January 27, 2006 ( – The Republicans appear to have gathered enough support to defeat a final attempt by the Democrats to block Justice Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation.

  Republican Senate Majority leader Bill Frist called for a motion on Thursday to cut off debate on the nomination, a motion that requires only 60 votes in the Senate. If that motion should pass, the Senate would then vote on Alito’s nomination on Tuesday. The nomination would pass with a majority of 51 votes.

With 53 Republican votes supporting the move, and a growing number of Democrats indicating they would participate, the 60 votes needed to close the floor to further nomination debates are already accounted for.

The move by Republicans to end debate on the nomination was triggered by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who announced Wednesday he would support a filibuster of the Alito nomination, saying as many as five Democrats had agreed to participate. On Thursday Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy said he would join in with Mr. Kerry

(A filibuster is a legal means of blocking a measure indefinitely by introducing motions or amendments and engaging in debate. A vote generally cannot take place until all such obstacles have been cleared, under Senate rules.)

Kerry’s move was not met with much enthusiasm even among Democrats.

Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin played down the possibility of a filibuster in an interview with CNN Thursday.

“One of the first responsibilities of someone in Congress is to learn how to count,” Mr. Durbin said. “Having made a count, I have come to the conclusion it is highly unlikely that a filibuster would succeed.”

Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the longest-serving Democrat in the Senate, said Thursday he would vote for Alito.

“My considered judgment … leads me to believe [Alito] to be an honorable man, a man who loves his country, loves his Constitution and a man who will give of his best,” said Byrd, in a speech on the Senate floor. “Can we really ask for more?”