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History of Street Cars

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Senate Panel's Debate on the Confirmation of Judge Roberts

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Published: September 22, 2005

The following is the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the confirmation of Judge John G Roberts Jr, as provided by CQ Transcriptions.

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SPEAKERS:

U.S. SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA) CHAIRMAN

U.S. SENATOR ORRIN G. HATCH (R-UT)

U.S. SENATOR CHARLES E. GRASSLEY (R-IA)

U.S. SENATOR JON KYL (R-AZ)

U.S. SENATOR MIKE DEWINE (R-OH)

U.S. SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL)

U.S. SENATOR LINDSEY O. GRAHAM (R-SC)

U.S. SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R-TX)

U.S. SENATOR SAM BROWNBACK (R-KS)

U.S. SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-OK)

U.S. SENATOR PATRICK J. LEAHY (D-VT) RANKING MEMBER

U.S. SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D-MA)

U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR. (D-DE)

U.S. SENATOR HERBERT KOHL (D-WI)

U.S. SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA)

U.S. SENATOR RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD (D-WI)

U.S. SENATOR CHARLES E. SCHUMER (D-NY)

U.S. SENATOR RICHARD J. DURBIN (D-IL)

SPECTER: The Judiciary Committee will now proceed with our executive session.

The floor schedule has votes which will be starting shortly, but our committee's going to go right ahead. There may be two votes or three votes, and if there are two votes, we will move to the 20-minute mark or so and vote and come back.

But we have a good bit of work to do this morning, so we will start right off with the committee action on the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to be chief justice of the United States.

We do not need a quorum for that, so we can start to speak.

At the outset, I want to compliment my distinguished colleague Senator Leahy for his courage in his vote yesterday. It is not easy to vote in a different manner with the thrust of the party. Some of us have had some experience at that.

And I think when you talk about a Supreme Court nominee you're talking about a vote of conscience and a vote of really great importance. There's no vote more important in the Senate, except for a declaration of war or the practical equivalent, which is a resolution for the use of force, than a vote for a justice on the Supreme Court.

And that is magnified even further when we're talking about chief justice. And that is magnified beyond that when you have somebody who's 50 years of age who has the potential to serve to the year 2040 or perhaps even beyond.

When the roll is called, prospectively next Thursday, I intend to vote aye for Judge Roberts to be chief justice.

He comes to this position with an academic and professional career second to none: Harvard College, Harvard Law, magna cum laude, summa cum laude, 39 cases argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.

And during the course of his extensive testimony, I believe he acquitted himself well. I have long thought that nominees answer about as many questions as they think they have to in order to be confirmed. I believe that Judge Roberts answered a few more; only a few more, but a few more.

Some nominees have refused to comment about cases, even those decided a long time ago in the realm of clear, unchallengeable law. Judge Roberts answered questions if he thought that the case was not likely to come before the court.

His approach of modesty of stability, and away from judicial activism, I think, is a model. Whether it is carried out remains to be seen, but those are the principles.

SPECTER: I was pleased to hear his testimony about his view on flexibility, in his comment that the framers were crafting a document that they intended to apply in a meaningful way down through the ages. So it's not a static doctrine; it's not a matter of original intent.

And he would not quite accept my question about Justice Harlan's language on the Constitution being a, quote, living thing, but he said that the clauses of liberty and due process were expansive and could be applied in a very broad context.

When it came to the major issue of a woman's right to choose, I did not ask him whether he would overrule Roe, because I don't think it appropriate to ask a nominee how he or she would vote on a matter likely or virtually certainly to come before the court.

I believe that his answers on stare decisis showed a very real respect for precedent. And he talked about the factors of reliance and how long the case had been in effect; whether it had been reaffirmed; talked about the potential of Roe and Casey v. Planned Parenthood being a super-precedent.

And when the research was conducted and determined that there were some 38 cases where Roe could have been overruled, I thought it not inappropriate to talk about a super-duper-precedent

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