Roberts Is Confirmed
As 17th Chief Justice
John G. Roberts Jr. was sworn in as the 17th chief justice of the United States, enabling President Bush to put his stamp on the Supreme Court for decades to come, even as he prepares to name a second nominee to the nine-member court.
The White House swearing-in ceremony on Thursday took place three hours after the Senate voted 78 to 22 to confirm Roberts. All 55 Republicans, half the 44 Democrats and independent Sen. James Jeffords (Vt.) voted yes.
The vote reflected the gap between many Senate Democrats and the liberal groups that strongly opposed Roberts and are important to the party's base. Senators in both parties predicted a much more bruising fight over Bush's upcoming choice to replace centrist justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
When the Supreme Court opens its new session Monday, Roberts, 50, will take the court's center seat that his mentor, the late William H. Rehnquist, occupied for 19 years. "The Senate has confirmed a man with an astute mind and a kind heart," Bush said at the swearing-in. Roberts "will be prudent in exercising judicial power, firm in defending judicial independence and, above all, a faithful guardian of the Constitution."
-- Charles Babington and Peter Baker
Former FEMA Director Spreads
Blame for Katrina Response
Former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael D. Brown said that it was not his job to take over the evacuation of New Orleans and rescue the drowning city from Hurricane Katrina, blaming Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin and "dysfunctional" state officials for the government's failed response to the disaster.
Over six hours of tense and at times angry testimony to a House investigative panel whose members condemned and derided him, Brown strongly defended his agency and himself against what he called "false, defamatory statements" spread by the news media about the agency's capabilities after the hurricane.
But he also spread responsibility widely for what President Bush has called an inadequate response to a White House that he said was fully apprised before Katrina's Aug. 29 landfall, to a Department of Homeland Security whose leaders cut money and staff for three years as they pursued the "emaciation of FEMA," and to a military he said was slow to react.
Brown, 50, took responsibility for two mistakes. He said he should have set up regular media briefings instead of conducting numerous television interviews and failed "to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together."
-- Spencer S. Hsu, Jim VandeHei
and Josh White
U.N. Panel Is Divided
On Iran's Nuclear Policy
The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency passed a resolution saying that Iran violated its nuclear treaty obligations by secretly developing a nuclear program. But in a sign of deep division, the agency delayed reporting the matter to the U.N. Security Council, as required by statute.
The resolution states that "the history of concealment of Iran's nuclear activities" resulted in the "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes." The United States has said Iran has ambitions to develop nuclear weapons; Tehran has said its program is strictly for generating energy.
But in a rare display of disunity on the 35-member board, which traditionally passes resolutions unanimously, just 22 countries voted in favor of the measure. Twelve countries, including Russia, China, Pakistan, South Africa and Brazil, abstained. One country, Venezuela, opposed it.
Disagreement on the board had forced the European Union and the United States to retreat from their initial demand that Iran be reported immediately to the Security Council, a move that could trigger international sanctions. Instead, the resolution obligates the board to report Iran to the council but leaves open the issue of when.
-- John Ward Anderson
Irish Republican Army Has
Disarmed, Commission Says
The Irish Republican Army has scrapped its vast arsenal of guns and explosives in a landmark step toward ending more than three decades of political and religious violence in Northern Ireland, according the independent weapons inspection commission that witnessed the disarmament process.
Officials in Britain and Ireland said they hoped the announcement would lead to the reinstatement of a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, bringing together parties representing the Democratic Unionists, Northern Ireland's largest Protestant political party, which wants Northern Ireland to remain under British rule, and Sinn Fein's republicans, who want the province to be part of the Republic of Ireland. Sinn Fein is the political wing of the Catholic IRA.
But Protestant politicians discounted official reports of a full disarmament, saying they wanted detailed proof before moving to reenter a power-sharing government with the British province's Catholic community.
And many Catholics say they worry about who will protect them from Protestant gunmen if the IRA is disarmed.
The disarmament announcement was a historic breakthrough in the conflict between majority Protestants and minority Catholics that has killed more than 3,600 people since 1969.
-- Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan
Frist Says He Sold Stock
With No Insider Information
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, facing federal inquiries into his sale of hospital company stock, said that he had no inside information about the stock's likely performance and sold the shares solely to avoid a possible conflict of interest in case he seeks higher office.
Frist (R-Tenn.), who is weighing a 2008 presidential bid, said he began taking steps to sell all the stock held in a trust about three months before its value sharply fell. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into his June sale of all his holdings in HCA Inc., a Nashville-based company that his family founded. The next month, the stock's value dropped 9 percent after the company issued a disappointing earnings forecast.
Frist, a wealthy surgeon, briefly addressed reporters in the Capitol but took no questions Monday in making his first public comments since the inquiries were announced the week before. Rejecting the notion that he may have benefited from inside information, he said, "I had no information about HCA or its performance that was not publicly available when I directed the trustees to sell the stock."
He noted that for years he repeatedly had said his ownership of HCA stock posed no conflict of interest for his Senate duties. Frist held HCA stock in several blind trusts, whose holdings have been valued at between $7 million and $25 million, according to a financial disclosure statement filed earlier this year.
-- Charles Babington
and Carrie Johnson