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July 28, 2005
Roberts No Activist, Says Senate Dem

I don't know which side will feel more relief with this development. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), one of the Gang of 14 and a highly-vulnerable red-state Democrat, says that John Roberts convinced him that he will not be an activist jurist after a personal interview earlier today:

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts gave assurances he wouldn't be an activist if confirmed, a key Democrat who already was leaning toward supporting him said Thursday.

"I don't see anything that's going to be disturbing" in his record, Sen. Ben Nelson told reporters after a 30-minute meeting with
President Bush's choice to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor on the high court.

Democrats have been pushing to review as many of Roberts' writings as possible, hoping to gain a better understanding of his personal views and the extent to which he might seek to inject them into his judicial rulings.

"He said he would not be an activist judge," Nelson said.

Nelson faces the fight of his life in Nebraska in 2006, a state that went for George Bush in a big way last year. He joined the Gang of 14 to keep from facing political disaster; another filibuster, and he knew he would join Tom Daschle on the dinner circuit. He cannot afford another round of obstructionism , and so he has some heavy motivation to take Roberts at his word.

On the other hand, with every endorsement that Roberts gets from across the aisle, the GOP hardliners will get more and more nervous about the appellate jurist with a small track record. By this point, no one really believes that Roberts will transform into the second coming of Souter, but another Anthony Kennedy doesn't sound out of the question. While most Republicans want to see a quick and relatively controversy-free confirmation, some will prefer a floor fight of unprecedented proportions to clear the air once and for all -- and to eliminate the judicial filibuster for good. Roberts' confirmation should avoid that, unless the Democrats really get foolish and agree in sufficient numbers to Estradify Roberts.

Nelson's preliminary endorsement makes that possibility much less likely. Which side suffers the most disappointment from that will be a toss-up.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 28, 2005 11:51 AM

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