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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Filibuster on Supreme Court Nominee Appears Unlikely - New York Times

Filibuster on Supreme Court Nominee Appears Unlikely - New York TimesJuly 21, 2005
Filibuster on Supreme Court Nominee Appears Unlikely
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

WASHINGTON, July 21 - The possibility of a filibuster against John G. Roberts, President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, appeared to recede today, as several Democrats emerged from a meeting of swing senators to say they did not envision their party trying to block the nomination.

"This is a credible nominee, and not one that - as far as we know now - has a record that in any sense could be described as extremist," said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, after a breakfast session with the Gang of 14, a bipartisan group that helped broker a deal in May to avert a Senate showdown over judicial nominees.

While Mr. Lieberman and his Democratic colleagues were careful not to rule out a filibuster - "There's a lot I don't know about John Roberts," the Connecticut senator said - their remarks after the meeting suggested that, barring any surprise developments, they expected Judge Roberts to be eventually confirmed.

"At the end of the hearings we do not anticipate anything that would be a stickler, that would rise to the level of extraordinary circumstances," said another Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, invoking the criteria that the group had agreed would warrant a filibuster. "But you can't come to that conclusion until the end of the entire process."

The 14 senators, seven Democrats and seven Republicans, met for about an hour in the office of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and a member of their group. The meeting was their first since President Bush named Judge Roberts, who has served for two years on the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, as his Supreme Court choice.

The group discussed, but did not reach any conclusions on, various issues related to the confirmation, including whether Democrats should have access to legal memorandums written by Judge Roberts when he was in the office of the solicitor general, and what types of questions the nominee should be required to answer.

A dispute over access to documents could give rise to a filibuster, as it did when the Senate took up the nomination of Miguel Estrada to be an appeals court judge. Mr. Estrada eventually withdrew before being confirmed.

If there is a dispute, several members of the Gang of 14 said they hoped the group would intervene. "The group stands ready," said Senator Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, "if there's any rough sledding."

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