- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

Democrats laid the groundwork yesterday to oppose the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr., accusing him of withholding his personal views on political and judicial matters.

“You did speak at length on many issues and sounded like you were conveying your views to us,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, told Judge Roberts yesterday. “But when one went back and read the transcript each evening, there was less than met the ear that afternoon.”

As he had throughout his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Roberts calmly explained that — as with previous nominees such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — it would be improper for him to discuss his personal views on certain issues, especially those that might come before the court.

In addition, the chief justice nominee said, those views are irrelevant, because his goal is to merely apply the law within the confines of the Constitution.

Still, it was the overriding concern of Democrats on the panel, which will vote on the Roberts nomination next week. Senate Republicans say they don’t expect to pick up a single vote from the eight committee Democrats, but several — including Mr. Schumer — insist that they haven’t made up their minds.

Outside the Senate, a coalition of liberal interest groups released a new television commercial showing snippet after snippet of Judge Roberts explaining during his testimony that he couldn’t answer certain questions, many of which had been asked repeatedly.

Yesterday marked the fourth and final day of hearings on Judge Roberts’ nomination to become the nation’s 17th Supreme Court chief justice. It is widely expected that the full Senate will confirm Judge Roberts by the time the high court convenes Oct. 3.

Among those Democrats being closely watched is Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who has said she will not support a nominee who will undo federal abortion rights.

“I don’t really know what I’m going to do with respect to voting for you or against you,” she told Judge Roberts yesterday.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican who is pro-life, dismissed such interest in Judge Roberts’ stance on abortion. He spent two hours with the nominee and said he tried mightily to pin him down. He couldn’t, but plans to vote for him based on his overall judicial philosophy and intellect.

Although no Democrats expressed support for Judge Roberts’ nomination, they heaped more praise on him yesterday for his intellect and coolness under intense questioning. Throughout his 19 hours and 55 minutes of testimony, Judge Roberts never referred to or jotted down one single note with the pad and pencil supplied to him on the witness table.

Before questions began yesterday, Mr. Schumer greeted Judge Roberts, shook his hand and said, “You have done an amazing job.”

Later, during the hearing, however, Mr. Schumer and other Democrats said they just weren’t convinced that Judge Roberts isn’t a conservative ideologue.

“I think if you’ve ever looked at what I’ve done since I took the judicial oath, that should convince you that I’m not an ideologue,” the judge replied.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, wondered whether Judge Roberts would be sensitive to the plight of the powerless and impoverished.

“If the Constitution says that the little guy should win, then the little guy’s going to win in the court before me,” Judge Roberts responded. “But if the Constitution says that the big guy should win, well then the big guy’s going to win because my obligation is to the Constitution.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said it is wrong to evaluate Judge Roberts on his political opinions.

“We’re down to the heart,” he said. “Well, there are all kinds of hearts. There are bleeding hearts and there are hard hearts.”

Referring to Justice Ginsburg, who was nominated by President Clinton, Mr. Graham said, “She has a different value system than I do. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a good heart. And I want this committee to understand that if we go down this road of putting people’s hearts in play, and the only way you can have a good heart is, ‘Adopt my value system,’ we’re doing a great disservice to the judiciary.”

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