Edward M. Kennedy, Wade Henderson ; Downplaying Abortion: Why Roberts Critics Are Focusing on the Constitution's Commerce Clause

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Editor's note: This story was originally posted July 22, 2005.

At week's end, the White House clearly has the wind at its back in the effort to secure John Roberts a seat on the United States Supreme Court.

Judge Roberts, currently a member of the US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, is, "a very attractive package," admits Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The Conference is a key member of the liberal coalition that has been preparing for months to oppose a Bush nominee to the Supreme Court.

At a Monitor breakfast, Henderson noted that Judge Roberts "has stellar academic qualifications. He is a member of the legal establishment in Washington, D.C. He has friends on both sides of the aisle. As a general matter, he is moving not so much toward a confirmation but what appears to be a coronation."

One sign of the nomination's momentum came Thursday. The so called "Gang of 14" - the bipartisan group of senators who produced a truce in the battle over judicial nominations - met and emerged to say there was agreement that Roberts' record did not meet the group's threshold for a Democratic filibuster.

It is not unusual that the administration has gotten off to a fast start in selling Judge Roberts, notes Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. At Friday's Monitor breakfast, Kennedy said, "historically there is always a honeymoon period for the nominee. That's the way it has worked in the past and is working at this time. He is obviously a very appealing individual and he has impressive credentials. Having said all that, he is pretty much ...a blank slate in terms of whose side he is going to be on."

Any hopes Democrats have of blocking the Roberts nomination are tied to how Roberts explains himself to the American people at confirmation hearings this fall.

"At the end of the day this is a nomination that will stand or fall on Judge Roberts' response to the difficult questions with respect to his core beliefs and judicial philosophy and, at the same time, whether the administration provides all relevant documents related to his public service," Henderson said. …

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