Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid of Nevada announced today that he will vote against the confirmation of chief justice nominee John G. Roberts Jr., a sign that party leaders want to build a sizeable bloc of opposition in next week's floor vote.

Reid, an anti-abortion moderate from a swing state, is the type of Democrat that the Bush administration hoped would vote for Roberts. Reid's announcement, to be detailed in an afternoon Senate speech, is partly designed to encourage other moderate Democrats to oppose the nomination.

Reid's biggest concern seems to be Roberts' record on civil rights and women's rights during the Reagan era, as revealed by internal memos from the Reagan administration.

"No one suggests that John Roberts was motivated by bigotry or animosity toward minorities or women," Reid added. "But these memos lead one to question whether he truly appreciated the history of the civil rights struggle. He wrote about discrimination as an abstract concept, not as a flesh and blood reality for countless of his fellow citizens."

Reid also said Roberts followed a "disingenuous strategy" at last week's confirmation hearings of suggesting that the views in the memos were not his own.

Democrats have tried without success to persuade the administration to release documents from Roberts' tenure as principal deputy solicitor general, a senior Justice Department job he held in the administration of the first President Bush. White House claims to shield the documents are "utterly unpersuasive," Reid said, adding that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had refused to meet with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont., to discuss the papers.

"The failure of the White House to produce relevant documents is reason enough for any senator to oppose this nomination. The administration cannot treat the Senate with such disrespect without some consequences," Reid said.

It's not going to change the outcome, but it's nice there's at least one senator (and a Republican, to boot) who isn't willing to confirm Roberts with these problems in his record, just because he's also smart and personable.

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