Bush Selects Judge Roberts To Be Chief Justice of Court<P>By Richard W. Stevenson and Sheryl Gay Stolberg THE NEW YORK TIMES <P>WASHINGTON <P>Bush Selects Judge Roberts
To Be Chief Justice of Court
By Richard W. Stevenson
and Sheryl Gay Stolberg
THE NEW YORK TIMES
President Bush nominated Judge John G. Roberts Jr. on Monday to succeed Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, whose death late Saturday opened a second vacancy on the Supreme Court and a new front in the ideological battle over the judiciary.
Senate leaders agreed Monday morning to delay by at least two days the start of Roberts’ confirmation hearing, which had been set to begin on Tuesday, when he was being considered to succeed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Now that Bush has nominated him for the chief justice’s job, several Senate and congressional leaders had asked that the hearings be delayed until after Rehnquist’s funeral, which is set for Wednesday.
The hearings will begin as early as Thursday and no later than next Monday, with a final decision on timing expected after further discussions.
Bush made Monday’s announcement in the Oval Office with Roberts at his side, saying that with just four weeks left before the Supreme Court reconvenes, it was in the interest of the court and the country to have a chief justice on the bench on the first full day of the fall term.
“He’s a man of integrity and fairness and throughout his life he’s inspired the respect and loyalty of others,” Bush said of his nominee. “John Roberts built a record of excellence and achievement and reputation for goodwill and decency toward others in his extraordinary career.”
In brief remarks, Roberts said: “I am honored and humbled by the confidence the president has shown in me.”
“I am very much aware that if I am confirmed I would succeed a man I deeply respect and admire, a man who has been very kind to me for 25 years,” he said.
Rehnquist died Saturday night at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 80 and had been serving on the court for 33 years, the last 19 as chief justice.
After Bush’s announcement Monday morning, several Democrats had urged that Roberts’ nomination hearings be delayed to consider him for the higher post of chief justice.
“Now that the president has said he will nominate Judge Roberts as chief justice, the stakes are higher and the Senate’s advice and consent responsibility is even more important,” the Democratic leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, said Monday. “If confirmed to this lifetime job, John Roberts would become the leader of the third branch of the federal government and the most prominent judge in the nation. The Senate must be vigilant in considering this nomination.”
Reid also said he wanted to discuss the recent developments with O’Connor.
“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.”
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., also wanted more time.
“Before the Senate acts on John Roberts’ new nomination, we should know even more about his record, and we should know whom the president intends to propose to nominate as a replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor,” he said. “The American people care deeply about the overall balance of their highest court, and its dedication to the protection of their rights.”