- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2005

President Bush yesterday reignited speculation that he would nominate Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to the Supreme Court, saying the list of potential candidates to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is “wide open.”

Mr. Bush made his comments at a Cabinet meeting, adding that his words “should create some good speculation here in Washington.”

“And make sure you notice when I said that I looked right at Al Gonzales, who can really create speculation.”

Although the remark drew chuckles from Cabinet members and journalists, Bush aides said he is seriously considering Mr. Gonzales. That prompted a fresh round of grumbling from conservatives, who fear that Mr. Gonzales would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 high court ruling that legalized abortion.

“He’s obviously not pro-life,” said Mark Crutcher, president of Life Dynamics.

Stephen Peroutka, chairman of National Pro-Life Action Center, pointed out that Mr. Gonzales voted to allow a girl have an abortion without telling her parents in 2000 when he was on the Texas Supreme Court.

Mr. Bush emphasized that he is casting a wide net for his second Supreme Court nominee in two months. His first nominee, Judge John G. Roberts Jr., was chosen in July and will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week for confirmation hearings.

“I was deliberate in my process last time; I’ll be deliberative this time,” Mr. Bush said.

The president said he does not expect to name a replacement until Judge Roberts is seated on the bench as a replacement for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died Saturday. Mr. Roberts was initially tapped to replace Justice O’Connor, but was renominated to become chief justice after Chief Justice’s Rehnquist’s death.

“I want the Senate to focus not on who the next nominee is going to be, but the nominee I’ve got up there now,” Mr. Bush said.

Meanwhile, Justice O’Connor has agreed to stay on the court until her replacement is found.

“She’ll be there when the court is seated with a new chief justice,” the president said.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said he expects to be consulted on the new nominee and urged the president not to nominate a staunch conservative.

“I look forward to consulting with the president on the O’Connor seat,” the Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor. “Justice O’Connor has been a voice of moderation and reason on the court and should be replaced by someone who, like her, embodies the fundamental American values of fairness, liberty and equality.”

In July, Mr. Reid said Mr. Gonzales is “qualified” to sit on the Supreme Court, which made some conservatives even more suspicious of the potential nominee’s credentials. But it also suggested that Mr. Gonzales, if nominated, would garner at least some Democratic votes in the Senate.

ABC News political editor Mark Halperin yesterday wondered whether “the White House will secretly welcome the opposition of a few conservative groups, making Gonzales seem more moderate.”

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