My co-blogger Orin is floating John Roberts as someone who might be able to get consensus support in the Senate (if not the 100-0 support that is being debated at the Debate Club). As my last post indicated, I have a more pessimistic view of whether opposition to a Bush Supreme Court nominee could be avoided, no matter whom Bush appointed.
Roberts was nominated for the DC Circuit in 2001 and was blocked for two years in the Senate Judiciary Committee, finally getting voted out of committee in May 2003. His committee vote was strong (16-3), but not unanimous. The Senate confirmation was without a roll call vote.
One has only to read the Alliance for Justice reports and press releases on Roberts to realize that, like almost any other Bush nominee, he would face a buzzsaw if nominated to the Supreme Court.
On its website, the National Council of Jewish Women lists the following organizations as opposing Roberts for the federal judiciary in 2003:
Alliance for Justice
Americans for Democratic Action
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
National Council of Jewish Women
National Organization for Women
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
Indeed, Roberts was blocked when the first President Bush tried to appoint Roberts. As the Alliance for Justice puts it:
President George H.W. Bush nominated Mr. Roberts to the D.C. Circuit, but he was considered by some on the Senate Judiciary Committee to be too extreme in his views, and his nomination lapsed. He was nominated by President George W. Bush to the same seat in May 2001.
Here is the opening of the Alliance's Report, suggesting how someone whom some reasonable people might view as uncontroversial can depicted as unfit for even the DC Circuit, let alone the Supreme Court:
John G. Roberts, nominated by President Bush to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, has a record of hostility to the rights of women and minorities. He has also taken controversial positions in favor of weakening the separation of church and state and limiting the role of federal courts in protecting the environment. The Alliance for Justice opposes his nomination to the D.C. Circuit.
Although Mr. Roberts is indisputably a very capable lawyer, that alone does not qualify him for such a prestigious and critical post. As a group of over 300 law professors stated in a 2001 letter to the Senate,1a lifetime appointment to the federal bench is a privilege that comes with great responsibility and requires much more. Every nominee bears the burden of showing that he or she respects and pledges to protect the progress made in the areas of civil rights and liberties, the environment, and Congress' constitutional role in protecting the health and safety of all Americans. Mr. Roberts' record, particularly his record as a political appointee, argues strongly that he would not do so.
While working under Presidents Reagan and Bush, Mr. Roberts supported a hard-line, anti-civil rights policy that opposed affirmative action, would have made it nearly impossible for minorities to prove a violation of the Voting Rights Act and would have "resegregated" America's public schools. He also took strongly anti-choice positions in two Supreme Court cases, one that severely restricted the ability of poor women to gain information about abortion services, and another that took away a key means for women and clinics to combat anti-abortion zealots. [In rereading this post after posting it, I think that a personal disclosure might be advisable. I consulted pro bono for NOW on the case (Scheidler) that I think is being referred to here.]
Finally, Mr. Roberts is being considered for lifetime tenure on a court that is only one step below the U.S. Supreme Court and is acknowledged to be the second most important court in the country. His nomination must be considered in light of the special significance of that court. Moreover, Judiciary Committee Chairman Hatch's insistence on scheduling three controversial Circuit Court nominees, including Mr. Roberts, for confirmationhearings on a single day ensured that senators had no meaningful opportunity to question Mr. Roberts about his views on a number of critical issues. The Alliance for Justice urges the Senate to reject his confirmation.
This is what I was talking about in my last post. The 7 Democrats signing the deal on filibusters are in effect promising to stand up to what will be incredible pressure from organizations like those who opposed Roberts before, organizations such as the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Alliance for Justice, the ADA, and NOW [for whom I have done work pro bono]. Can the senators live up to their promise?