EDITORIAL: Bickering just beginning in hearings

The Senate’s confirmation hearings for Judge John Roberts ended last week, but the partisan bickering has only just begun, as the Senate Judiciary Committee will decide tomorrow whether to send the matter to the floor of the Senate for an up or down vote.

Last week’s hearings were full of the typical self-important, self-promoting nonsense from both sides of the aisle that seem to have become a permanent fixture in the legislature’s upper house. The hearings are designed to allow senators to ask the nominee questions pertaining to judicial philosophy that may influence his/her decision-making if confirmed for the Supreme Court. One would find that hard to believe after last week, when the senators on the committee often spent three minutes talking to every one minute Judge Roberts spend answering. It seems as though the committee was not so much interested in determining Roberts’ method of judicial reasoning as they were concerned with letting the special interest groups in their home states know that they were supporting their various causes and using the hearings as an outlet to do so.

Roberts, on the other hand, demonstrated the kind of poise and composure that have earned him praise from friends and enemies alike throughout the course of his career. His answers were pithy, yet precise; his demeanor was calm, but he did not hesitate to correct any senator whom he felt was misconstruing his answers or taking prior statements out of context. Democrats were disappointed, to say the least, that Roberts did not make a major pronouncement on Roe v. Wade – some, it seems, hoped the allegedly conservative nominee would speak out against the infamous decision, thereby confirming the suspicions of many that Roberts is an extreme right-winger who will overturn any decision not fully in line with President Bush’s ideology. The committee’s chairman, pro-choice Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, seemed equally disappointed. Pro-choice groups protesting Roberts outside the Capitol were irate. But Roberts carefully and justifiably avoided answering any questions that might have an impact on cases that might one day appear before the court.

But for all of last week’s drama, it seems the fight ahead will have even more fireworks in store. Yesterday Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada stated that he would not vote to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This decision comes as a surprise to many who were certain that the senator would vote in favor of confirmation, and throws yet another monkey wrench into the gears of President Bush’s Supreme Court vision. Other Democrats refuse to say how they will vote, but if the leading Senate Democrat from a right-leaning state won’t vote for Roberts, it’s hard to imagine that other Senate Democrats will be chomping at the bit for a chance to confirm the Indiana-born jurist.

But the surprises don’t stop there, as the Washington Post and the LA Times both endorsed the confirmation of Roberts – a move shocking to some on the right, and further evidence, so they say, that Roberts is the man for the job.

It’s starting to look like the only certain thing in this process will be uncertainty.

The above editorial is the consensus of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.