Specter Warns Against

Far-Right Court Picks

The Republican expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee next year bluntly warned newly reelected President Bush yesterday against putting forth Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion rights or are otherwise too conservative to win confirmation.

Sen. Arlen Specter, fresh from winning a fifth term in Pennsylvania, also said the current Supreme Court lacks legal "giants" on the bench.

"When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely," Specter said, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision on abortion.

"The president is well aware of what happened, when a bunch of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster," Specter added, referring to Senate Democrats' success over the past four years in blocking the confirmation of many of Bush's conservative judicial picks. ". . . And I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I am mentioning."

With at least three Supreme Court justices rumored to be eyeing retirement, including ailing Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Specter, 74, would have broad authority to reshape the nation's highest court. He would have wide latitude to schedule hearings, call for votes, and make the process as easy or as hard as he wants.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) expressed confidence yesterday that Bush will have more success his second term in winning the confirmation of his judicial nominees.

"I'm very confident that now we've gone from 51 seats to 55 seats, we will be able to overturn this what has become customary filibuster of judicial nominees," Frist said in Orlando.

Legal scholar Dennis Hutchinson said Specter's message to the White House appears to be "a way of asserting his authority" as he prepares to chair the Judiciary Committee when Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) is term-limited from keeping the post next year.

Administration Seeks

Higher Debt Ceiling

The Bush administration announced that it will run out of maneuvering room to manage the government's massive borrowing needs in two weeks, putting more pressure on Congress to raise the debt ceiling when it convenes for a special post-election session.

Treasury Department officials announced that they will be able to conduct a scheduled series of debt auctions next week to raise $51 billion. But an auction of four-week Treasury bills to be completed Nov. 18 will have to be postponed unless Congress acts before then to raise the debt ceiling.

"Due to debt limit constraints, we currently do not have the capacity to settle our four-week bill auction scheduled to settle on Nov. 18," Timothy Bitsberger, acting assistant Treasury secretary for financial markets, said in a statement.

Congress is scheduled to return for a lame-duck session Nov. 16 to deal with the debt ceiling, an omnibus spending plan for the rest of this budget year and other matters.

The Republican-controlled Congress put off dealing with the debt ceiling before adjourning in October, preferring not to force members to vote on the politically sensitive issue of adding to the national debt before the November elections.

The government hit the debt ceiling of $7.384 trillion on Oct. 14, forcing Treasury to begin a series of bookkeeping maneuvers to keep financing the government's normal operations without breaching the debt ceiling.

-- From News Services