Alito Hearing Opens

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Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's confirmation hearing has opened on Capitol Hill.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter says Alito has an extensive record as a government lawyer, prosecutor and judge. The Republican says it's possible to isolate cases from that long record that make Alito look like "a flaming liberal" or an "arch-conservative."

In his opening statement, Specter said the "great national concern" over the clash between civil liberties and national security will be a top issue. He also said Alito will likely be questioned about abortion and constitutional checks and balances.

Democrat Patrick Leahy's opening statement focused heavily on judicial independence. The top Judiciary Committee Democrat praised retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's record.

He says the White House can't "be allowed to pack the court" with justices who will simply build the president's power.