Roberts Confirmation Update: Democrats and Robes

On a vote of 78-22, John G. Roberts has been confirmed as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The big thing we'd all been wondering when we debated this subject two weeks ago was how would the Democrats vote? We saw five Dems on Judiciary vote against the nominee in committee, while the Post commended the other three (Leahy, Feingold and Kohl) who saw fit to support sending Roberts's nomination to the full Senate.

In that Senate vote, all 55 Republicans, the one independent and 22 of the Democrats voted for Roberts's confirmation. The other half of the Democratic caucus voted against. (Historical note: Rehnquist received 26 no votes when he was up for a spot as an associate justice on the Supreme Court, and 33 no votes when he was up for elevation to the chief's seat. So Roberts, apparently, was less upsetting to the Dems than was Rehnquist.) The Supreme Court blog has plenty more details.

Elysium Fields says the confirmation isn't terribly worrisome -- this is "Rehnquist part II, with the exception of not having the overtly racist and anti-semitic credentials as our previous chief justice." Then it sums up the feeling of many left-leaning political observers: "In an administration this highly dominated by the GOP, that's really the best anyone could rationally hope for."

The Confirm Them blog, on the other hand, is falling all over itself in its excitement to praise the confirmation. "It's hard to imagine a more qualified, brilliant and articulate person who could occupy the Supreme Court's center seat" ... "his personal magnetism and extraordinary persuasive skill" ... "superb qualifications and obvious intellect" ... "will prove himself one of the nation's great jurists" ... you get the idea.

And finally, TBIFOC decides to ask the cats what they think about the Roberts confirmation. (The kitty cats make a lot of cracks about the spinlessness of the Dems, but they're mighty cute.)

Now everyone's attention turns to two questions, of somewhat unequal importance:

1. As Underneath Their Robes pondered earlier this month, should the new Chief Justice keep Rehnquist's signature gold stripes? UTR sees it as a question of honorng Rehnquist vs. being "modest and unpretentious." I'm inclined to go for the latter. He's already the youngest member of the court -- and leading the court, no less -- so it might be better (and more characteristic of Roberts?) not to draw too much attention to himself.

2. Who will Bush nominate for O'Connor's seat? If Bush picks someone who really appeals to his base -- and seriously rankles the opposition -- everyone will be so preoccupied with waging political war that Roberts could probably don a robe made entirely of solid gold and no one would even notice.

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By Emily Messner |  September 30, 2005; 5:00 AM ET  | Category:  Issue Updates
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Also, what has happened to the credibility of the more moderate Senate Democrats that voted against Roberts among swing voters?

Posted by: Benny | September 30, 2005 10:58 AM

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