Following are excerpts from opening statements by some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee as confirmation hearings began yesterday on the nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. to be chief justice of the United States:
It is my firm view that there are ought not to be a political tilt to the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, thought to be Republican or Democrat. . . . These hearings, in my judgment, ought to be in substantive fact and in perception for all Americans.
-- Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)
The judiciary is the most isolated branch of our government from public accountability, so this is the only opportunity to examine what kind of justice John Roberts will dispense if promoted to the Supreme Court, the direction he'd lead the federal judiciary.
-- The committee's top Democrat, Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.)
Just because we're curious doesn't mean that our curiosity should be satisfied. You have no obligation to tell us how you will rule on any issues that might come before you if you're confirmed to the Supreme Court.
-- John Cornyn (R-Tex.)
This is a confirmation proceeding . . . not a coronation. It is a Senate Judiciary Committee's job to ask tough questions.
-- Russell Feingold (D-Wis.)
For me, one of the most important issues that needs to be addressed by Judge Roberts is the constitutional right to privacy. . . . It would be very difficult . . . for me to vote to confirm someone whom I knew would overturn Roe v. Wade, because I remember -- and many of the young women here don't -- what it was like when abortion was illegal in America. As a college student at Stanford, I watched the passing of the plate to collect money so a young woman could go to Tijuana for a back-alley abortion. I knew a young woman who killed herself because she was pregnant.
And in the 1960s then, as a member of the California Women's Board of Terms and Parole, when California had what was called the indeterminate sentence law, I actually sentenced women who committed abortions to prison terms. I saw the morbidity. I saw the injuries they caused. And I don't want to go back to those days.
-- Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
To me, the central issue before the Senate is whether or not the Senate will allow President Bush to fulfill his campaign promise to appoint a well-qualified, strict constructionist to the Supreme Court and, in this case, to appoint a chief justice to the Supreme Court in the mold of Justice Rehnquist. He's been elected president twice. He has not hidden from the public what his view of a Supreme Court justice should be and the philosophy that they should embrace. In my opinion, by picking you, he has lived up to his end of the bargain with the American people by choosing a well-qualified, strict constructionist.
-- Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.)
Judge, if I look only at what you've said and written -- as used to happen in the past -- I would have to vote no. . . . This is your chance, Judge, to explain what you meant by what you have said and what you have written.
-- Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.)