Specter voices support for Roberts-like nominee to replace Day O'Connor
September 20 2005 12:00 AM ET
easy confirmation for John Roberts, the chairman of the
Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday he hoped President
Bush's next Supreme Court nominee will share Roberts's
conservative credentials. "I hope that we'll have
somebody who is modest like Judge Roberts says he is,
someone who will promote stability so there are no sharp
turns," said Republican senator Arlen Specter of
rise from appeal courts to the high court all but assured,
Bush has begun early consultations on filling the vacancy
created by retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Bush
plans to meet on Wednesday with Specter, Senate
majority leader Bill Frist, minority leader Harry
Reid, and Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on
the Judiciary Committee. Leahy, appearing with Specter
on CBS's Face the Nation, said he expects to hear
specific names from the president at the White House
replacements include federal appellate judges Edith Clement,
Edith Hollan Jones, and Emilio Garza. Also mentioned have
been judges J. Michael Luttig, Samuel A. Alito Jr.,
James Harvie Wilkinson III, and Michael McConnell,
lawyer Miguel Estrada, former deputy attorney general
Larry Thompson, and Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales. "I
would hope that we could see the court have less 5-4
decisions and speak with more clarity," Leahy said. "I
think the president, with four of us there, may well
get some response on what we think about those names."
week's confirmation hearings, Roberts declined to elaborate
on specific issues such as whether he would uphold the 1973
landmark abortion decision of Roe v. Wade.
Still, some Democrats have shown little appetite for a
political fight since Roberts would fill the seat of
conservative chief justice William H. Rehnquist, an
opponent of Roe.
however, poses a different question because her vote
could tip a court closely divided on abortion, the death
penalty, gay rights, and affirmative action. Specter
said he is confident Roberts will support privacy
rights such as abortion and believes a judge in the same
mold would be an appropriate replacement for O'Connor. "I'd
like to hear that the president is going to maintain
balance and have a very evenly divided court," he
The first vote on
Roberts is expected Thursday in the 18-member
committee, which is divided between 10 Republicans and eight
Democrats. The full Senate—composed of 55
Republicans, 44 Democrats, and independent senator Jim
Jeffords of Vermont—is scheduled to vote the week of
September 26, in time for Roberts to take his seat when the
court opens a new term on October 3.
Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said Sunday she
will vote to confirm Roberts. "My personal discussions with
Judge Roberts as well as his responses during the
Judiciary Committee hearings have convinced me that he
respects precedents and will apply the law and
Constitution fairly," Collins, who supports abortion rights,
said in a statement.
senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said
Roberts will be a reliable conservative on the court, but he
said Republicans will be disappointed if they are
counting on him to overturn Roe
. "If your view of conservative is, he'll have
to decide your way, you'll be disappointed," Graham
said on Fox News Sunday. "Judge Roberts will
listen to the arguments from those challenging it and those
seeking to uphold it and make a decision not based on
politics but the rule of law," Graham said.
A New York
Times editorial on Sunday urged senators to vote
against Roberts, saying the 50-year-old appeals court
judge is too much of a risk to confirm because of his
unclear positions. "On abortion, church-state
separation, gay rights, and the right of illegal
immigrants' children to attend public school—all
currently recognized by the court—he asks to be
accepted on faith," the editorial said. "That just
isn't good enough."
The Washington Post
, however, said in an editorial Sunday that
Roberts was "overwhelmingly qualified." "Judge Roberts
represents the best nominee liberals can reasonably
expect from a conservative president who promised to appoint
judges who shared his philosophy," according to the
Clinton said many Democrats may choose to vote against
Roberts even though he is well-qualified because Roberts
could shift the direction of court. "The Roe v.
Wade issue is a big issue, because Justice
[Clarence] Thomas said he'd never even discussed it
with anybody, and then, like the minute he got on the court,
he made it clear that he wanted to repeal it," Clinton told
ABC's This Week. Clinton said he did not know whether
his wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, would vote against Roberts.
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