Senate leaders said that the Judiciary Committee would begin hearings Monday on President Bush's nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. to be chief justice, Tuesday, and the president said he would take his time selecting a candidate from a "wide open" field to fill the Supreme Court's second vacancy.
At midday, Bush formally sent Roberts' name to the Senate to succeed Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died Saturday, and withdrew the earlier nomination of Roberts to fill the seat of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring.
“I want the Senate to focus not on who the next nominee is going to be, but the nominee I got up there now," Bush said. "In the meantime, the country can be assured that I'll take a good, long look at who should replace Justice O'Connor," reports LA Times.
According to Bloomberg, the dual court vacancies are the first since 1971, when President Richard Nixon selected Rehnquist and Lewis Powell as associate justices. Bush's decision, coming as he struggles with sagging approval ratings and mounting criticism of his response to Hurricane Katrina and conduct of the Iraqi war, may help define the remainder of his presidency.
“I'm certain that there are a few political advisers in the White House that have a little less hair,” said Douglas Kmiec, a professor at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California, and a former Republican Justice Department official. “This is a chess game and it is important not only what moves you make but when you make them.”