- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Conservative groups rallied behind President Bush yesterday to nominate a reliable anti-abortion conservative to the Supreme Court if a justice retires anytime soon.

“We’re standing with the president and his pro-life goals,” said Janet Folger, who organized Project Rosebud, a consortium of seven major conservative organizations dedicated to, among other things, outlawing abortion in the United States.

The group aims to tip the ideological balance on the high court toward ending the right to abortion, guaranteed by the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.

Ms. Folger and other conservatives haven’t forgotten that the last Republican appointee to the court was Justice David H. Souter — nominated by Mr. Bush’s father — who most often sides with the liberal wing of the court.

“There can never be another David Souter again,” Ms. Folger said.

And if, as anticipated by some, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist retires, that will leave conservatives with just two justices who consistently rule against abortion rights — Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. “We don’t have any votes to spare in getting to five,” she said.

Rosebud’s Web site (www.f2a.org) urges people to write the president and send a rose, signifying life, Ms. Folger said. The site also features a Bible verse from the book of Ezra, 7:25:

“And you, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint judges to administer justice to all the people … who know the laws of your God.”

In addition to Justice Souter, conservatives have targeted White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, a potential nominee to the high court, who as a Texas Supreme Court justice struck down a parental-notification law for minors seeking abortions.

“There is a long list of qualified candidates who would uphold laws defending the sanctity of human life,” said Connie Mackey with the conservative Family Research Council. “It’s not clear that Al Gonzales is one of them.”

Just a few hours after Project Rosebud’s press conference yesterday at the National Press Club, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, arrived to urge Mr. Bush to consult Senate Democrats during the nomination process and pick a more-centrist nominee in a speech titled, “Supreme Court Preview: It Doesn’t Have to Be Armageddon.”

Mr. Leahy said there has been a “spate of 5-4 opinions” by the high court on a number of cases — “including an important decision this week narrowly upholding affirmative action” in two cases involving admissions policy at the University of Michigan. He said that the narrow ideological split on the court showed that a conservative nominee should be avoided.

Mr. Leahy’s speech followed a flurry of notes from Senate Democrats asking Mr. Bush to consult them on a nominee, and the White House calling such demands “a novel, new approach” to the judicial selection process.

But in a letter last week to Mr. Leahy, Mr. Gonzales said, “The White House is and remains willing to meet and listen to your thoughts and concerns, as well as those of your colleagues.”

According to the June 19 letter, Mr. Leahy and Mr. Gonzales already met last week to discuss the process of replacing a justice.

“I fully appreciate your interest, as well as your constitutional role, in the Supreme Court process,” Mr. Gonzales wrote. “I share your desire for a fair and orderly Senate confirmation process and prompt vote in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy during this presidency.”

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