Court Nominee Heads To The Hill

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., far right, welcomes Judge John G. Roberts, second from right, President Bush's choice to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, during a visit to Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 20, 2005. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is seen on the left. AP

President Bush urged the Senate on Wednesday to "provide a fair and civil process" and to confirm his nominee for the Supreme Court before the next court session begins in October.

Mr. Bush spoke the morning after he announced U.S. Appeals Court judge John G. Roberts as his choice to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor as the first new member of the nation's highest court in more than a decade.

After a breakfast meeting with the president, Roberts, 50, headed to Capitol Hill to pay courtesy calls on senators who will ultimately decide his fate.

A top White House aide tells CBS News Correspondent Gloria Borger that Roberts is "a man of principle, yet someone not always spoiling for a fight."

Yet, that's what he may be headed for on Capitol Hill. The one thing both parties agreed on was that the hearings will be extensive.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said hearings on the nomination would begin in late August or more likely early September.

"I can assure you that the hearings will be full, fair and complete," he told reporters.

Roberts' first stop on Capitol Hill was the office of Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn,, who called the nominee "a leading legal mind." Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the second-ranking Republican, predicted a "respectful process" that would culminate in confirmation on the president's timetable.

Roberts also had a meeting scheduled with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who said the nominee "has had an impressive legal career" and other fine qualities. But, he added, "They do not automatically qualify John Roberts to serve on the highest court of the land."

He said senators "must be convinced that the nominee will respect constitutional principles and protect the constitutional rights of all Americans."

As Borger reports, Roberts credentials are not in question, it's his personal views that Democrats want to know more about.

CBS News Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen said Roberts "is going to be questioned about his record in environmental and civil rights cases and about the clients he had while he was a million-dollar-a-year attorney in private practice just before he got his current job as a judge. He is going to be hammered about the controversial positions he took as part of the Solicitor General's office, too."

Abortion surfaced quickly as a flash point.

NARAL-Pro Choice America announced its opposition to Roberts even before Mr. Bush formally made his selection public in a prime time televised White House appearance on Tuesday. The group planned an "emergency demonstration" against the nomination across the street from the Capitol at midday.

On the on the other side of the political equation, Progress For America called a news conference to announce a television commercial to begin running soon. The group, which coordinates its efforts with presidential aides, pledged in advance to spend at least $18 million on advertising and grass roots activities to buttress the confirmation prospects of whomever Mr. Bush chose.

Abortion, a polarizing issue for lawmakers, will be the "hot button" issue in the confirmation battle, conceded Fred Thompson, the former senator who will shepherd the nomination through the Senate.
  • Sean Alfano

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