Senators Debate Starting John Roberts’ Supreme Court Hearings

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 28, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senators Debate Starting John Roberts’ Supreme Court Hearings Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 28, 2005

Washington, DC ( — With members of the Senate sitting down to peruse 75,000 documents handed to them about John Roberts from the White House, the debate is beginning on when to open up the Judiciary Committee for hearings on the Supreme Court nominee.

Both President Bush and Senate Republicans want to confirm Roberts in time for the Supreme Court’s next term, which begins October 3. But, Senate Democrats want to push hearings back until September to allow them more time to review the documents.

Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, says he wants to bring the Senate back from its August recess a week early and begin hearings August 29. He opposes holding hearings any later unless Senate Democrats promote to allow a confirmation vote on the Senate floor before late September.

"Absent that kind of commitment, it seems to me that duty will call on us to go ahead with August 29th," Specter said Wednesday.

Sen. Pat Leahy, the top Democrat on the judicial panel, countered, "The Senate has a duty to the American people of today and tomorrow to get it right. I hope the White House will help and not hinder the Senate in getting it right."

Absent many concrete issues on which to oppose Roberts, political observers say Senate Democrats are potentially looking to use the timing of hearings and their contention that the White House is not giving them enough information as reasons to hold up hearings or a vote on Roberts.

"Something has to give," New York Sen. Chuck Schumer told the Associated Press. "If the nominee does not want to answer questions, then we need more documents. If there is a moratorium on documents, then we need the nominee to answer questions more forthrightly and we need more time to ask those questions."

"That can’t happen," Schumer said of President Bush’s desire to complete hearings and a vote on Roberts by September 29.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, a Utah Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said Democrats want to wait to begin hearings until September 12 and he told the Washington Post he expected Republicans to "split the difference" with them by beginning on September 6.

Hatch said a four day hearing starting then would give the Senate three weeks to schedule a full Senate vote to complete their work on Roberts in time for him to sit on the court in October.

Roberts has picked up support from at least one Democrat, pro-life Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

"I’m leaning his way," the abortion opponent said Tuesday. "Based on everything I’ve seen, I see no reason to oppose him."