Democrats Get Last Shot At Roberts

Chief Justice nominee John Roberts waits for the start of the third day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005.
Frustrated by two days of sparring with John Roberts, Democrats are down to their final chances to coax answers from the chief justice nominee on abortion, privacy and other hot-button issues before he heads to likely Senate confirmation.

Six Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats — Roberts' biggest critics so far — will try one last time on Thursday to elicit his views on a host of legal subjects before ending confirmation hearings on the man President Bush wants to replace the late William H. Rehnquist.

But Democrats expressed little hope of cracking what New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer called Roberts' "cone of silence."

"This process is getting a little more absurd the further we move," Schumer groused.

Roberts has successfully sidestepped and parried questions on how he would rule on controversial cases, and committee Republicans were so confident in the 50-year-old judge's ability to emerge unscathed Thursday they've waived any time they could use to help him recover from any potential slip-ups.

"I expect you will be confirmed," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, one of many GOP senators who already have Roberts sized up for the black robes he would don on the Supreme Court.

Watch a Live Webcast of the Roberts confirmation hearing.

"If people can't vote for you, then I doubt that they can vote for any Republican nominee," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. With all 10 Republicans likely to vote from him next Thursday, the only question left was how many, or if any, of the committee Democrats would approve of his candidacy.

Minority Democrats sounded unswayed.

Sen. Charles Schumer told Roberts he was "cutting back a little on what you said yesterday," referring to an earlier statement that the Constitution provides a right to privacy.

The New York Democrat made his charge after Roberts declined to cite any examples of disagreement with the opinions of Justice Clarence Thomas on the subject. Thomas has written there is no general right to privacy, a right often viewed as the underpinning of a right to abortion.

CBS News Correspondent Bob Fuss reports Delaware Democrat Joe Biden was frustrated by an inability to get a straight answer from the nominee.

"We are rolling the dice with you," Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., told the 50-year-old appeals court judge, who turned aside questions about abortion, the right to die, the permissibility of torture and other issues he said may come before the court.