- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2005

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said yesterday he hopes President Bush will “maintain balance” on the Supreme Court when he nominates a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“You have a very evenly divided court,” the Pennsylvania Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “There are a great many issues that many people are worried about on both sides of the spectrum.”

Mr. Specter echoed the hopes of Democrats, who are urging President Bush to pick a successor who — like Justice O’Connor — votes with the liberal wing of the court on certain key matters, such as abortion rights.

Mr. Specter also said he doubts federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr., nominated as the next chief justice, will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that established federal abortion rights.

“I pointed out that there have been 38 cases since Roe where the Supreme Court had the opportunity to overrule Roe,” he said. “[Roberts] stayed away from those characterizations, but I think he gave very, very strong assurances on fulfilling reliance and expectations.”

Mr. Specter, who favors abortion rights, plans to officially announce today whether he supports Judge Roberts’ nomination.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also said he’s not certain Judge Roberts would overturn Roe if given the chance.

“If your view of being conservative is he has to decide your way, then you’re going to be disappointed,” Mr. Graham said yesterday on “Fox News Sunday.” “What he will do with Roe v. Wade or any other case before him is judge it based on the briefs and the facts and the arguments made.”

After sitting through nearly 20 hours of testimony from Judge Roberts last week, Mr. Graham said the jurist is no ideologue.

“But he is a true, strict constructionist believing in a limited role of a federal judge in our society,” he said.

Mr. Graham is a member of the “Gang of 14” senators who have become the key to whether Democrats have enough votes to filibuster any nominee.

“I have talked to my fellow gang members, and I think Judge Roberts is going to get an up-or-down vote,” he said.

Judge Roberts is expected to be voted out of the Judiciary Committee this week. Many expect that vote to be along party lines, but a handful of Democrats say they are considering voting in favor of him. A vote by the entire Senate is expected later this month.

On Wednesday, Mr. Specter and other Senate leaders will meet with President Bush to discuss the O’Connor vacancy.

Most Republicans view this replacement as an opportunity to alter the balance of the court. Mr. Specter does not.

“I’d like to hear that the president is going to maintain balance,” he said. “I hope that we’ll have somebody who is modest, like Judge Roberts says he is, and someone who will promote stability so there are no sharp turns.”

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