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Parties split on Roberts as confirmation process begins

[JURIST] President Bush's Tuesday evening nomination [JURIST report] of conservative federal appeals court judge John G. Roberts to the US Supreme Court has predictably drawn praise from Republicans and calls for caution from Democrats, who vow to examine Robert's record carefully during the confirmation process. In preparation for the confirmation hearings, which will likely begin in late August or early September, the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] will conduct its own investigation of Roberts and make a recommendation to the Senate. Nominees require a simple majority - 51 of 100 votes - to be confirmed, but if a filibuster were to occur, 60 votes would be needed to break it. Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Democratic Member Patrick Leahy [official profile] promised Roberts would receive a thorough and careful investigation [Leahy statement], but that no candidate would receive a "free pass to a lifetime appointment." Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, the only woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said somewhat more cautiously that "I will keep my powder dry until the due diligence is completed." GOP Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter is scheduled to hold a news conference on the Roberts nomination later today as the nominee begins to make get-acquainted rounds on Capitol Hill.

Off the Hill, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman applauded the choice [RNC statement] of Roberts to fill the O'Connor vacancy, citing his unanimous approval by the Senate when he was appointed to the DC Circuit in 2003 as evidence of his "wide breadth of support." Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean meanwhile expressed disappointment [DNC statement] that the President had chosen a candidate with "sharp partisan credentials." AP has more reaction to Roberts' nomination.

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