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High Court Nominee Roberts Visits Capitol Hill
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High Court Nominee Roberts Visits Capitol Hill

High Court Nominee Roberts Visits Capitol Hill

High Court Nominee Roberts Visits Capitol Hill
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Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, left, with Supreme Court nominee John Roberts

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, left, showed Supreme Court nominee John Roberts around his office Wednesday. Reuters hide caption

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Supreme Court nominee John Roberts begins a series of courtesy calls, meeting members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and leaders of both parties. Congress goes into recess at the end of July; confirmation hearings for Roberts could begin in September.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

John Roberts spent much of his first day as a Supreme Court nominee on Capitol Hill paying courtesy calls. He met with many of the senators who will question him and likely vote on his confirmation. Many Democrats signaled they were less than pleased to have a conservative white man nominated to fill the seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and they vowed that they will press Roberts to learn more about his views. Here's NPR's David Welna from the Capitol.

DAVID WELNA reporting:

Judge Roberts started the day in the White House Rose Garden alongside President Bush, who yesterday triggered a confirmation process bound to make headlines for many more weeks. Mr. Bush declared he was confident the senators whose consent is needed to confirm Roberts will come to realize, just as he has, that the nation's lucky to have someone of, quote, "such wisdom and intellectual strength willing to serve the country."

President GEORGE W. BUSH: And so I told Judge Roberts over coffee that we'll provide all the support that's necessary for the senators to be able to make up their minds; that we will push the process forward because he and I both agree that it's important that he be sworn in prior to the court reconvening in October; and that I wished him all the best.

WELNA: And then it was on to the US Capitol, where Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist welcomed Roberts before a phalanx of reporters and cameras in his second-floor office suite. Roberts was deferential, saying he both appreciated and respected the Senate's constitutional role in the appointments process.

Judge JOHN ROBERTS (US Supreme Court Nominee): I'm very grateful to the senators for accommodating me and having me over here today, just the day after the announcement of the nomination.

WELNA: Also at the encounter was Arlen Specter, the Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee. Specter said the hearings his panel will hold on Roberts' nomination could occur next month, but added it would be easier having them in September.

Senator ARLEN SPECTER (Republican, Pennsylvania; Chairman, Judiciary Committee): I concur we'll have dignified hearings. I think that they will be extensive hearings because there will be many questions which will be raised. But based on Judge Roberts' qualifications, my instinct is that he'll have the answers.

WELNA: Questions for Roberts are clearly on the minds of some leading Senate Democrats. New York's Charles Schumer is one of three Democrats who two years ago opposed Roberts' appeals court nomination because he felt Roberts had not adequately responded to his questions at that time. Today Schumer said he hopes for better results this time.

Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): I'm making a plea here, and that is to Judge Roberts to answer the questions fully and openly. There are going to be lots of them on whole ranges of issues that affect the lives of so many people. And I think it's his obligation and our responsibility to make sure that those questions are answered.

WELNA: And California Democrat Barbara Boxer said Roberts' record needs further examination.

Senator BARBARA BOXER (Democrat, California): Without prejudging this nominee, there are areas that have been brought to my attention about which I have concerns, and that is the issue of privacy and a woman's right to choose, and it is the environment. It is veterans' rights.

WELNA: Still, Republicans today continued to insist Roberts is the kind of nominee all senators should support. Here's Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.

Senator KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (Republican, Texas): This is a man who is going to be confirmed very easily; I hope that that is the case. I hope the Senate will show how the Senate ought to operate by, yes, doing due diligence, yes, asking questions but in a respectful way for this very esteemed judge.

WELNA: In a chamber where fewer than half the members have ever voted for a Supreme Court justice, it was a day where such optimism mixed with a strong dose of uncertainty. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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