Sunday, July 10, 2005

Democrats seek court nominee with 'big heart'


Democrats seek court nominee with 'big heart'

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid urged President Bush on Saturday to say "no to the far right" and nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court someone who will rule with "an open mind and a big heart."

"We need an independent thinker who will follow the Constitution, not a knee-jerk conservative crusader who will march in lock-step to the tune of partisan pressure groups," Reid of Nevada said in his party's weekly radio address.

Bush intends to confer on Tuesday with Reid and other key Senate Democratic and Republican lawmakers as he moves toward naming a nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor before the nation's highest court meets for its new term in October.

With the ideological balance of the court at stake, special-interest groups from the right and left have begun multimillion-dollar campaigns that will seek to shape public opinion and thus Senate votes on Bush's nominee.

A simply majority will be needed in the 100-member Republican-led Senate to confirm a Supreme Court nominee, but 60 votes would be required to clear a procedural roadblock known as a filibuster that Democrats could raise.

The announced resignation of O'Connor on July 1 cleared the way for Bush to make his first nomination to the nine-member Supreme Court, and there is widespread speculation that ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist may soon also step down.

With one and possibly two nominations, the conservative president will have an opportunity to shape the nation's highest court. And he and his aides are getting ready by reviewing a list of potential candidates and creating a team for the Senate confirmation process.

"On many important questions, Sandra Day O'Connor has been the deciding vote in favor of moderation and in defense of our basic rights," Reid said in his radio address.

"I hope that President Bush and the Senate can work together to nominate and confirm ... someone with enough common sense to know that Supreme Court justices should not impose a narrow partisan ideology, but make rulings with an open mind and a big heart."

Reid urged Bush to select "a mainstream justice who won't use their judicial robe as a cloak to impose their political ideology on the country."

"That's what (President) Ronald Reagan did (in 1981) when he chose Sandra Day O'Connor," Reid said. "Both parties cheered the decision. That can happen again if President Bush says 'no' to the far-right and instead follows in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan to choose a Supreme Court justice who will unite the country."

Former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie, a skilled communicator, will serve as "the public advocate on behalf of Bush's nominee," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters on Friday. "He will coordinate our efforts."