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Republicans want quick court appointment

Senate
Republicans want quick court appointment

Now that Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor has announced her retirement, the Republican-controlled Senate will try to get her successor in place before the court's new term begins in October. Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, will control the confirmation hearings, a task his staffers have been working on for months. Republican staffers speculate that initial hearings won't begin until a month to six weeks after President Bush nominates a successor. Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee want time to conduct their own investigations of the nominee before the hearings. Senators already have been discussing whether and how to limit the number of witnesses, but no final decision has been made. GOP staffers have said hearings could go on for at least a week or more to accommodate senators, the nominee, and the people who want to speak against the nominee and on the nominee's behalf. At the conclusion of the hearings, Specter will call a committee vote at the next available committee meeting. While Democrats have said they expect to question the nominee thoroughly, Supreme Court nominations traditionally advance to the full Senate for a vote even if they get negative recommendations from the Judiciary Committee. Specter, who is fighting cancer, has said he also expects to shepherd the nomination on the Senate floor. If Specter is not available, former committee chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, would do it. If the nomination is controversial, Senate majority leader Bill Frist will likely have to decide whether to try to block Democrats from using a filibuster to block confirmation. Seven Democrats and seven Republicans have signed a pact pledging not to filibuster judicial nominees except in extraordinary circumstances. At the same time, they agreed to oppose attempts by GOP leaders to change filibuster procedures. (AP)

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