President Bush is in the early phases of consultations with Congress on filling a second vacancy on the Supreme Court, officials disclosed Friday, as Judge John Roberts coasts to Senate confirmation as chief justice.
White House counsel Harriett Miers has called selected members of the Senate within the past day or two to solicit their views on replacements for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, these officials said.
At the same time, Bush has invited four key senators to a breakfast meeting at the White House next Wednesday to discuss filling O'Connor's seat. The guest list includes Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as well as Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the panel's senior Democrat.
Officials said Miers had called at least two Senate Democrats, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Evan Bayh of Indiana. Mikulski's office declined to confirm the call, even though an aide had confided earlier in the day to a roomful of other Democrats that it occurred. Bayh's spokesman said he did not know the reason for Miers' call.
The administration's actions became known one day after the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded hearings on Roberts, who is expected to become the nation's 17th chief justice before the end of the month. The committee is expected to recommend his approval next week, with the full Senate scheduled to vote in time for him to take his seat as chief justice when the court opens a new term on Oct. 3. Roberts, 50, is an appeals court judge and a former Reagan administration lawyer.
Bush is also under pressure from conservatives who want O'Connor's replacement to help make a court majority that would overturn the 1973 ruling that established a woman's right to an abortion. O'Connor was part of a slender majority that has helped sustain the initial ruling, ABC News reports.