- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Bush has invited key lawmakers to a White House meeting next week to begin consultations on a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, officials said yesterday.

The meeting, to be held Wednesday, signals the White House is moving to find a successor to Justice O’Connor as Judge John G. Roberts Jr. awaits confirmation as chief justice.

Mr. Bush invited Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, and Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, as well as Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the panel’s senior Democrat, the officials said. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to disclose the invitations.

One official said the White House has begun making phone calls to key senators to get their views on finding a replacement for Justice O’Connor.

The meeting would mirror a session Mr. Bush held with the same four lawmakers several weeks ago as he began consultations to fill the first Supreme Court vacancy in 11 years.

The meeting — and others likely to follow — allow the White House to say that Mr. Bush consulted with the Senate before announcing his nominee.

“It’s a good first step,” Mr. Leahy said last night, “but real consultation is a two-way street.”

Mr. Reid urged the president to choose someone in Justice O’Connor’s mold. “Justice O’Connor has been a voice of reason and moderation on the court,” he said.

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