The New Democratic strategy on Roberts..

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Stephanie, Sep 7, 2005.

  1. Stephanie

    Stephanie Diamond Member

    Jul 11, 2004
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    Democrats shift strategy on Roberts
    Plan to use Katrina to highlight racial and economic divide
    By Rick Klein, Globe Staff | September 7, 2005

    WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats said yesterday that they will invoke the vast disparities in income and living conditions laid bare by the Hurricane Katrina disaster to sharpen their questioning of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. at his confirmation hearings next week.

    The scenes of devastation featuring primarily poor African-American residents in New Orleans have highlighted the widening gap between rich and poor, said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.

    With Roberts having urged a narrow interpretation of civil rights laws in the past, Senate Democrats will link the scenes of economic hardship with the constitutional and legal issues that surround efforts to address racial and economic inequalities, he said.

    ''We have made very important progress over the period of the last 50 years in knocking down walls of discrimination so that people can participate and be a part of a changed America," said Kennedy, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. ''And he's going to be asked to explain some of his advice that would have, I think, undermined that progress in important ways."

    Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said he, too, will pursue questions raised by Katrina in the Roberts hearings. In addition, civil rights leaders whom Democrats have called to appear at the hearings said they also intend to refer to the scenes from the hurricane-ravaged region.

    Senate leaders announced that the confirmation hearings for Roberts scheduled to begin yesterday will instead commence on Monday, in deference to the Katrina tragedy and the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

    President Bush strongly hinted yesterday that he would not name a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor until after the Senate votes on Roberts. Bush said O'Connor assured him Monday that she'll stay on the court until a successor is confirmed, and he said he wants the Senate to work on approving a chief justice in time for the Oct. 3 start to the court term.

    ''I want the Senate to focus not on who the next nominee is going to be, but the nominee I've got up there now," the president said.

    Bush also stoked rumors that he will choose his longtime friend, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, to join the high court, as the president comes under pressure to name either a woman or a minority.

    ''The list is wide open, which should create some good speculation here in Washington," Bush said. ''And make sure you notice when I said that I looked right at Al Gonzales, who can really create speculation."

    Roberts, whom Bush nominated Monday to succeed Rehnquist, was among the pallbearers at the Supreme Court yesterday as Rehnquist's closed casket was carried up the building's marble steps for the first of two days of public mourning. Rehnquist, who died Saturday of thyroid cancer, will be buried today in Arlington National Cemetery.

    Roberts has appeared headed for relatively easy confirmation. But Democrats and liberal groups hope that issues raised by Katrina offer a new opening to critique his record on civil rights and to point out differences between Democrats, who favor a powerful role for the federal government, and Republicans, who are more deferential to the states.

    Leahy said he watched the scenes of hardship on television with a growing sense of anger over the inability to deliver services to those who depend most on the government, issues he said would come up during the Roberts hearings.

    ''We'll have legitimate questions as to the authority of the federal government -- the central authority of the government -- but also the ability of individuals to seek redress if they don't get the help that they expect," Leahy said
    Memos Roberts wrote as an aide in the Reagan administration are expected to be fodder for Democratic criticism of his civil rights record. He argued against the constitutionality of affirmative action, pushed to make it easier for school districts to evade busing as part of court-ordered desegregation, and argued for a scaled-back version of the Voting Rights Act.

    Later, as an appeals court judge, Roberts also urged a narrow interpretation of the Commerce Clause, one of the tools Congress has used to pass federal laws on a host of issues affecting civil rights.

    The hurricane served as a stark reminder that many Americans remain politically powerless and economically repressed, despite laws designed to help in areas like education, voting, employment, and housing, said Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

    He said he and Representative John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and veteran civil rights leader, will refer to the scenes from Louisiana during their testimony on Roberts before the Judiciary Committee next week.

    ''They're a reminder that we really do live in a divided society, where race and class are factors, are part of daily life," Henderson said. ''What we know about John Roberts's record suggests ambivalence at best, hostility at worse, to enforcement of the nation's civil rights laws."

    But Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said Democrats will be overreaching if they tie Katrina's aftermath to Roberts. As a lawyer and a federal appellate judge, Roberts has established a commitment to upholding the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress, Cornyn said.

    ''Trying to connect this nomination hearing for Judge Roberts with the disaster of Katrina, I think, is a stretch," he said.

    Ah yes, those great democrat's of our country.... :poke:

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