Bush Is Urged to Pick

Unifier for High Court

Senate Democrats called on President Bush yesterday to pick someone "who will unite the country, not divide it," when he chooses a nominee to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

The letter comes as the Senate readies itself for next week's hearings on the nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. to replace the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

The letter, signed by Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and the three other members of the Democratic leadership team, urged Bush to consult with the Democrats before moving to fill the second vacancy.

Tacitly invoking the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf states, the letter said that in this "difficult time for our country" the president should "choose a qualified, consensus candidate who will receive widespread support in the Senate and among the American people."

The president is not expected to choose a second nominee until next week's hearings are completed, and he could take longer than that to fill the slot.

Senators Threaten

Emissions Rules

Led by Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, a group of senators want to try a rarely used legislative tactic to overturn emission regulations issued this year by the Environmental Protection Agency. They are pushing for debate in the Senate by next week, when the deadline for Congress to act expires.

The regulations essentially switched mercury from being regulated as a hazardous pollutant under the Clean Air Act -- which would have forced hundreds of coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions -- to one with less stringent controls.

The regulations call for a 70 percent cut in emissions by 2015 and a cap-and-trade program to allow factories to buy credits from cleaner plants rather than reduce emissions.

Fourteen states, led by New Jersey, are challenging the EPA in court.

Navy Has No Proof of

Gulf War Pilot's Death

A Navy pilot shot down over Iraq in January 1991 may have been captured by Iraqi forces, and members of the former Iraqi government "know the whereabouts" of the officer, the Navy has concluded.

A Navy board of inquiry concluded that there is no credible evidence that Capt. Michael "Scott" Speicher is dead, and it reaffirmed his official status as "missing/captured," according to the board's final report.

The board also recommended that the Pentagon work with the State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Iraqi government to "increase the level of attention and effort inside Iraq" to resolve the question of Speicher's fate. Navy Secretary Gordon R. England approved the report on Wednesday, said Lt. Erin Bailey, a Navy spokeswoman.

The Iraqi government under President Saddam Hussein maintained from the start that Speicher perished at the site where his F/A-18 fighter jet crashed in the desert. No evidence to contradict that has surfaced since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, but the new Navy inquiry concluded there was no credible evidence of his death, either.

"In view of the above findings, the board concludes as to the current whereabouts and status of the person that the person is missing/captured," the report said.

-- Compiled from reports by staff writer Jo Becker and news services