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Washington’s senators split on Roberts

The Spokesman-Review

Washington state’s U.S. senators split on the confirmation of John Roberts as the nation’s next chief justice, while Idaho’s senators supported him as they have since President Bush nominated him.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said late Tuesday she would vote against Roberts’ confirmation because of questions about how he would rule on cases involving the right of privacy. Washington state has strong privacy rights in its constitution, and Cantwell said Roberts wasn’t specific enough on what past rulings he would uphold on abortion and other privacy rights.

She said she was also concerned about his dissent in a case involving Congress’s authority to pass the Endangered Species Act.

Sen. Patty Murray, the state’s senior Democrat, said in a speech on the Senate floor that she will vote to confirm Roberts, even though she accused the Bush administration of providing inadequate information on his record and taking a “spoils of war” approach to nominating people to the federal bench. Future nominations could be more contentious if that continues, she said.

But in reading the transcripts of the confirmation hearings and after two conversations with Roberts, she believes him to be honest, ethical, qualified and fair and can be “a judge for all Americans,” she said.

Washington’s senators reflected the split within the Democratic Party over the nomination, while Idaho’s Republican senators reflected the GOP’s solidarity behind him.

Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo both endorsed Roberts shortly after Bush named him as a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and didn’t change their minds when he was named to the top spot after the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Craig described him in July as “a nominee who realizes judges interpret law, they don’t create new law.” Crapo called him an excellent choice with wide experience in public service and private practice, and with “a strong ability to correctly interpret the Constitution.”

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