IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Republicans hope for quick approval of Roberts

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts likely will not face a Democratic filibuster, senators who brokered an earlier deal to speed up President Bush's judicial nominations said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts likely will not face a Democratic filibuster, Senate centrists who brokered an earlier deal to expedite President Bush's judicial nominations said Thursday.

While the group of 14 Democratic and Republican senators said they were reserving official judgment until after Roberts' confirmation hearings, Sen. Mike DeWine said there was agreement that Roberts' resume doesn't show the "extraordinary circumstances" that would meet the group's threshold for a Democratic filibuster.

"There's no indications so far that there will be a filibuster, and I think that was the consensus in the meeting," said DeWine, R-Ohio. "But I think people are reserving the right to see what comes out of the hearings."

Said Sen. John Warner, R-Va.: "This is a confirmation process, not a coronation."

President Bush, meanwhile, said he appreciates the reception Roberts has received so far in the Senate, where the nominee spent Wednesday meeting with senators and had more meetings Thursday.

Roberts will ‘make all Americans proud’
"I want to thank the senators from both political parties who are giving Judge Roberts the chance to talk about his heart, talk about his philosophy," Bush said during remarks to the Organization of American States. "He is a person that'll make all Americans proud" if he is confirmed for a seat on the high court.

Bush added that Roberts has the "experience, wisdom, fairness and civility to be a really good judge."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked later whether the president thinks there are enough votes to confirm Roberts, said it was too soon to get into the business of counting heads.

"I think it's way too early in the process to start trying to get into vote counting, or anything of that nature," McClellan said.

Some Democrats indicated that they don't see Roberts, a 50-year-old Republican lawyer-turned-judge as the kind of right-wing candidate they feared Bush would select.

"This is a credible nominee, and not one that — as far as we know now — has a record that in any sense could be described as extremist," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said Bush had "made a wise choice."

Asked whether a filibuster was likely, Nelson said: "I think it's fair to say I don't see anything coming out right now."

"My sense is so far, so good," summed up Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

Americans want to know Roberts' stance on abortion
Meanwhile, an AP-Ipsos poll out Thursday said more than half of Americans, 52 percent, said they thought Roberts should have to state his position on abortion before he is confirmed, with women more likely than men to want to know his stance. Most of those surveyed — 59 percent — said they haven't heard enough about Roberts to form an opinion about him personally. But among those who had, 25 percent viewed him favorably and 14 percent unfavorably.

Majority Republican senators have been unfailingly admiring of Roberts since Bush announced the nomination Tuesday night. And even though Democrats are uncertain about his judicial philosophy, not a single Democratic senator so far has called for the conservative jurist's outright rejection. There also has been no public talk of trying to block a yes or no vote.

After meeting Roberts, committee member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said: "He's the type of guy you'd want to live next door to."

Roberts also was meeting Thursday with two of his biggest Senate critics, Democrats Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles Schumer of New York. They are among three Democrats who voted against Roberts's nomination to the federal appeals court.

Roberts will meet with the third, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's no. 2 Democrat, on Friday.

Democrats have said they aren't about to rubberstamp Bush's choice of a successor to retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

No free passes, Democrats say
"No one is entitled to a free pass to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court," Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday.

Abortion and access to internal government memos loomed as likely flash points as Democrats pointed toward the nationally televised proceedings, likely to begin after Labor Day.

Yet chances of a Democratic filibuster were fading.

"Do I believe this is a filibuster-able nominee? The answer would be no, not at this time," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a Judiciary Committee member and abortion-rights supporter.

Many Republicans members of the "Gang of 14," which helped avoid a confrontation over judges in May, have indicated support for Roberts.

"I think that Judge Roberts deserves an up-or-down vote, and I hope that the other members of that group agree with me," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member.

Roberts didn't say much publicly Wednesday during a five-hour visit to the Capitol, except to praise the politicians who will vote on the first Supreme Court nomination in 11 years.

"I appreciate and respect the constitutional role of the Senate in the confirmation process," Roberts said after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

No guarantees of a smooth confirmation
While Democratic senators said such things as Roberts was "in the ballpark" of being a nonconfrontational selection, they refused to guarantee a smooth confirmation process.

"The nominee should be as clear and open as he possibly can in answering our questions," Leahy said.

Republicans predicted the outcome. "We intend to have a respectful process here and confirm you before the first Monday in October," when the court reconvenes, McConnell told Roberts.

The administration was taking no chances, enlisting former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., to help smooth Roberts' path to confirmation.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who was at the fulcrum of early speculation as Bush's likely choice, said Thursday he understands Democrats will interrogate Roberts closely on his legal views, but said they shouldn't go too far.

Gonzales, appearing on CBS' "The Early Show," said questions about how someone will approach a case are appropriate. "But to inquire as to how someone is actually going to decide a case, I think, is inappropriate for a nominee to answer," he added.

As Roberts paid courtesy calls on senators Wednesday, a conservative group bought TV ad time in support of his nomination. Abortion rights groups, meanwhile, staged protests against the nominee at the Supreme Court and the Capitol.

Progress for America, a conservative organization with ties to the administration, unveiled the opening salvo in an ad campaign designed to ensure confirmation. It stressed Roberts' resume of academic and professional accomplishments and public service — first in his class at Harvard Law School, confirmed by the Senate to his current position and lawyer in two presidential administrations.