- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2005

Federal Judge John G. Roberts Jr. entered the homestretch yesterday toward his near-certain confirmation to be the next Supreme Court chief justice.

Although this week had been set aside for a full debate over the nomination, much of yesterday was squandered on “quorum calls” — a parliamentary timeout during which no business is conducted but the clock continues to wind down.

With at least 13 Democrats crossing over to support the nomination, talk on Capitol Hill turned to speculation about whom President Bush will pick for the other opening on the high court. Many think Mr. Bush will nominate a woman or a minority based on comments yesterday.

“I will pick a person who can do the job,” Mr. Bush said. “But I am mindful that diversity is one of the strengths of the country.”

Yet no matter how diverse that nominee is, Democrats are expected to mount much greater opposition than they have against Judge Roberts.

“Unless the President nominates Howard Dean, Barbra Streisand or Al Gore, the Democrats can be expected to filibuster,” warned Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the conservative Concerned Women of America. “Any nominee who thinks the text of the Constitution should be taken more seriously than a supermarket tabloid is filibuster fodder.”

Since Friday, Judge Roberts has picked up support from several key senators who are members of the so-called “Gang of 14,” the group of senators who can determine whether a nominee will be filibustered.

Democrat Sens. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Ken Salazar of Colorado all endorsed Judge Roberts, bringing the total number of announced supportive Democrats to 13.

With 18 senators still undecided, Judge Roberts will likely get at least 68 votes if all Republicans vote for him as expected. An agreement was reached yesterday that the final vote on confirmation will take place Thursday morning.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, announced yesterday that she would oppose the nomination.

“I am left with persistent doubts about whether he will safeguard civil rights, the implicit right to privacy and equal protection of the law,” she said yesterday. “What he believes is what he is, and it will shape the Supreme Court for the next 20 years.”

In July, Miss Mikulski led a group of female senators in a nationwide solicitation for questions for Judge Roberts. More than 40,000 questions were submitted through a Web site set up by the women, Miss Mikulski said.

A primary concern for Miss Mikulski is “privacy,” a legal code word for abortion. But, unlike many Roberts detractors, she said he was not entirely evasive on the issue.

“I appreciate Judge Roberts’ candor on the right to privacy,” she said. “He certainly said more on it than some other nominees have.”

Still, she said, she is concerned that he does not embrace privacy to the extent that she wants.

“This is one of the most important and evolving protections of our Constitution,” Miss Mikulski said. “Just think how profoundly society has changed with the Internet and information technology.”


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