Filibuster Of Roberts Unlikely

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., welcomes Judge John G. Roberts, right, President Bush's choice to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, to the Capitol in Washington.
Senate centrists who brokered an earlier deal on President Bush's judicial nominees said Thursday that his pick for the Supreme Court is not likely to face a Democratic filibuster.

Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, said there was agreement in the group of 14 Democratic and Republican senators that Judge John G. Roberts' resume doesn't show the "extraordinary circumstances" that would meet the group's threshold for a filibuster.

While the group said it was reserving official judgment until after Roberts' confirmation hearings, DeWine said there were "no indications so far that there will be a filibuster, and I think that was the consensus in the meeting. But I think people are reserving the right to see what comes out of the hearings."

Said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said, "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.

"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," Mr. 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.

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

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 Mr. 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 the president 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.

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.

Other Democrats, however, said they weren't about to rubber stamp Mr. Bush's choice of a successor to retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"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.