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U.S. Supreme Court

Bush decision on 2nd nominee still an unknown

Associated Press
Published September 8, 2005


WASHINGTON - Maybe President Bush was just joking around to fuel speculation, but some conservatives aren't laughing about the president's playful glance at Attorney General Alberto Gonzales when he described the list of possible nominees for the second Supreme Court vacancy as wide open.

"No conservative leader supports Al Gonzales and those who say they do are not telling the truth but are afraid of losing White House access, or promised help with fundraising," said Manuel Miranda, former counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Senior White House officials do not expect the president to make his choice known this week, and possibly not until after the Senate holds a confirmation hearing that begins Monday for John Roberts, Bush's nominee for chief justice.

Bush has said only that he will nominate a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in a "timely manner."

"I really don't know whether it's two weeks or four weeks," Frist said Wednesday.

If Bush wants to wait until after the Roberts hearings are over, that gives him until at least Sept. 20 to make up his mind, if he hasn't already done so. That's the earliest date that Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, says he will call for a committee vote on whether to confirm Roberts.

"The president is at a Rubicon here - a major crossing point," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Judiciary Committee.

If confirmed, Roberts is expected to vote much like the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist he would replace.

"Because Roberts is in the mold of Rehnquist, what most Americans would say is for the associate justice pick, (Bush should choose) someone a little more moderate - in the mold of O'Connor," he said. "At first blush, Gonzales might well fit that, but obviously you'd want to so some research."

Choosing Gonzales also would allow Bush to fulfill his expressed desire to nominate the first Hispanic to the court.

Many conservatives, however, wouldn't be happy with Gonzales.

"Conservative leaders are again worried that the president's delay is intended to give the White House time to build support for Alberto Gonzales and to distance the selection from Katrina," Miranda said.

Liberal groups such as People for the American Way are wary of Gonzales, too.

"We opposed Alberto Gonzales when he was nominated to be attorney general," said Ralph Neas, president of the organization.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee again asked the Bush administration to release Roberts' paperwork from his time as principal deputy solicitor general in former President George Bush's administration.

[Last modified September 8, 2005, 01:50:14]


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