Roberts' Pundits Start Rolling

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., right, chats with Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., while watching President Bush's announcement of his Supreme Court nominee John Roberts on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 19, 2005. (AP Photo/Yuri Gripas) AP

While Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts is considered a strong conservative, senators considered him so non-controversial that they unanimously skipped over a recorded vote to push him into a lower court.

Whether U.S. Appeal Judge Roberts will get that kind of support for the nation's highest court is still unknown, but it augurs well for his bid to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"It's a good choice," said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a member of the powerful "Gang of 14" that recently prevented a Senate meltdown over judicial filibusters. When asked whether Roberts could be confirmed easily, Warner said, "I wouldn't predict anything, but it's certainly a good place to start."

Another member of the "Gang of 14", Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., told the Hartford Courant last Thursday that Roberts would be one of three picks he thought would not spark a talk-a-thon, or a filibuster.

Seven Democrats and seven Republicans signed a pact in May not to filibuster judicial nominees except in extraordinary circumstances. At the same time, the senators agreed to oppose attempts by GOP leaders to change filibuster procedures.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would not prejudge Roberts' nomination before the hearing.

"The president has chosen someone with suitable legal credentials, but that is not the end of our inquiry," Reid said. "The Senate must review Judge Roberts' record to determine if he has a demonstrated commitment to the core American values of freedom, equality and fairness."

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, said "Judge Roberts is no Sandra Day O'Connor."

"Americans deserve a Supreme Court that is fair, independent, ethical and served by justices committed to our constitutional freedoms rather than an ideological agenda. Justice O'Connor refused to use her position as a means to advance a political agenda. In replacing her, we must be confident Judge Roberts will do the same,'' said Kerry.


Republicans sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who will take the first vote on Roberts, immediately praised the pick.

Roberts is "a judge who sees himself a fair umpire who will fairly construe the Constitution and be faithful to it," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a former Appeals Court nominee who was blocked by Democrats.

Added Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a former judge: "Judge Roberts is an exceptional judge, brilliant legal mind, and a man of outstanding character who understands his profound duty to follow the law. ... It is clear to me that Judge Roberts' history has prepared him well for the honor of serving this country on our nation's highest court."

Some other reactions:

"The president has chosen someone with suitable legal credentials, but that is not the end of our inquiry. The Senate must review Judge Roberts' record to determine if he has a demonstrated commitment to the core American values of freedom, equality and fairness." — Senate minority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"Judge Roberts is the kind of outstanding nominee that will make America proud. He embodies the qualities America expects in a justice on its highest court: someone who is fair, intelligent, impartial and committed to faithfully interpreting the Constitution and the law." — Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

"We are extremely disappointed that President Bush has chosen such a divisive nominee for the highest court in the nation, rather than a consensus nominee who would protect individual liberty and uphold Roe v. Wade." — NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Roberts "rules based on the application of existing laws and specific facts of the cases before him, rather than making new laws or creating new policies based on personal opinion." — Sean Rushton, director of the conservative Committee for Justice.

"I look forward to the Committee's findings so that I can make an informed decision about whether Judge Roberts is truly a guardian of the rule of law who puts fairness and justice before ideology." — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

"Senate Democrats, especially those seeking re-election next year, should know that we will be watching them carefully. If they again attempt to attack a nominee's faith or pro-life convictions, their constituents will know about it and they will be held accountable." — Father Frank Pavone, national director, Priests for Life.
  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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