News Flash: Republicans Like Roberts

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) spoke for 12 minutes Wednesday, leaving Judge Roberts with eight minutes total to respond. Other senators used up even more of their 20 minutes.
Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) spoke for 12 minutes Wednesday, leaving Judge Roberts with eight minutes total to respond. Other senators used up even more of their 20 minutes. (Jason Reed - Reuters)
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 14, 2005; 2:51 PM

Move over John Marshall and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) dashed to the microphones during a break in today's John Roberts confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He had a startling announcement. Roberts, Cornyn said, is probably "the most qualified nominee who has ever been put up for a Supreme Court vacancy."

And the news continued to come. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), one of the Senate's most conservative members, faced the cameras next. "I've decided I'm going to vote to confirm him," Coburn disclosed.

Reporters rushed to the phones with the news flash: Republicans support Republican president's nomination.

Midway through a second day of questioning of Roberts, the hearing had lost most of the little suspense it had in the first place. The only speculation in the halls outside the hearing today was how many, if any, Democrats on the committee would vote for Roberts en route to his all-but-certain confirmation.

Jane Roberts, the nominee's wife, is so concerned about her husband's fate that she was seen dozing off on camera yesterday as her husband answered questions.

Today, there hasn't been much in the way of questions or answers. Roberts avoids any question on a topic that might come before the high court -- which is to say most any question senators wish to ask. The result: Democrats and Republicans alike are using the bulk of their time for speechmaking rather than questioning.

"I thought you had a great presentation yesterday," Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) told the nominee.

"I've never seen anyone do a better job," added Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "You have made a very, very strong presentation here."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was only slightly more cautious, calling Roberts "the most qualified justice in my lifetime" and adding: "Obviously he's read every case ever written and memorized it."

In Hatch's 15 minutes of questioning, the senator spoke for 12 and left the nominee with three. When Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) took his turn, the senator used 15 of the 20 minutes and gave Roberts five.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) explained there was "a lot of senator talk," as he put it. "I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said. "It is the only time that . . . you'll have the opportunity to be directly lobbied in the political context in an appropriate way."


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