President Bush Delays Second Pick, Democrats May Back John Roberts

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 6, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

President Bush Delays Second Pick, Democrats May Back John Roberts

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 6, 2005

Washington, DC ( — With the Senate busy considering the nomination of John Roberts for the chief justice position and working with the president to address the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush says he’s in no hurry to appoint a second person to replace outgoing pro-abortion Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“I want the Senate to focus not on who the next nominee is going to be, but the nominee I’ve got up there now," Bush said this morning. “And it’s important for the country that they complete the work."

Bush said the field was "wide open" for his other pick for the nation’s top court but he said his focus was making sure Roberts was on the court by October 3, when the next term begins.

"The list is wide open, which should create some good speculation here in Washington," Bush added. "And make sure you notice when I said that I looked right at Al Gonzales."

Gonzales is Bush’s Attorney General and has come under fire from pro-life groups because he is seen as not likely to favor overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that ushered in an era of unlimited abortions.

Roberts, who was originally slated to replace O’Connor before pro-life Chief Justice William Rehnquist passed away Friday, will have hearings on his nomination starting September 12. O’Connor will serve on the court until her replacement is confirmed.

Meanwhile, it appears as many as 25 Democrats could support Roberts’ nomination as Chief Justice and will not likely prevail if abortion advocates launch a filibuster against him.

Key Democratic lobbyists told The Hill newspaper that Democrats could suffer politically if their Roberts attack strategy misfires. With little upside to going after a noncontroversial nominee who has broad political support and the backing of the public, key Democrat strategists say they will encourage lawmakers to support Roberts.

“It’s not a good thing for Democrats to be dragged into a visible, high-profile battle on him for weeks when Congress ought to be dealing with issues the public really cares about,” one key Democratic lobbyist told The Hill. “That’s the biggest danger for Democrats, if they get sucked into something like that because of the ideological left."

They said that as many as 65 to 85 members of the Senate could support Roberts’ bid, including all seven of the members of the Senate filibuster compromise earlier this year that allowed votes on President Bush’s pro-life appeals court nominees.

Although Democrats have mostly been silent on Roberts’ nomination thus far, waiting to see if any potential blowup happens in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, some lobbyists predict moderate Democrats like Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana or Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas could come out in favor of Roberts during the hearings.