Senate Democrats

Democratic Leaders Call for Consultation and Consensus on the O’Connor Vacancy

Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leadership sent a letter to President Bush today urging consultation and consensus in selecting a nominee for the O’Connor vacancy.

Full text of letter below:

September 8, 2005

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As leaders of the Senate Democratic Caucus, we pledge the cooperation of Senate Democrats as you reopen the process of choosing a nominee to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Moreover, we call on you to engage in meaningful consultation with us to identify a candidate for this crucial position who will unite the country, not divide it.

The Constitution envisions that the President and the Senate will work together to fill vacancies in the federal judiciary. We are already doing so with respect to your recent nomination of Judge John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States; as you know, that nomination is receiving prompt and thorough consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee. While there is no legal requirement that the full Senate consider the Roberts nomination prior to the first Monday in October when the Court will reconvene, we are working in good faith with you and Senate Republicans to accomplish that goal.

We hope that the process of filling the O’Connor vacancy will unfold in a stronger spirit of bipartisanship. The first step in that process is consultation. We hope and expect that you will engage in frank and open discussions with Democratic Senators regarding your intentions for filling this vacancy.

Consultation is not an end in itself, and should be more than mere window dressing. The goal of consultation is to identify a candidate who can win broad bipartisan support in the Senate. Four of the eight current Supreme Court justices were confirmed unanimously; only one received less than 87 votes in the Senate. Two of the eight – Justices Ginsburg and Breyer – were recommended to President Clinton by Senator Hatch, then the Ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. Nominees who command such bipartisan support strengthen respect for the judiciary among the American people.

It is especially important to identify a consensus candidate to succeed Justice O’Connor, who has been a voice of reason and moderation. As a former state legislator and state court judge, she brought common sense and practical experience to the Court. She became widely respected as a pragmatic, non-ideological, and mainstream Justice. To be sure, Justice O’Connor has been a conservative judge, but she is well within the broad mainstream of conservative jurisprudence. Her legacy of fairness and even-handedness on the Court should be preserved.

This is a difficult time for our country and we face many challenges. It would serve the country well for you to choose a qualified, consensus candidate who will receive widespread support in the Senate and among the American people. To this end, we urge you to engage in meaningful consultation with the Democratic leadership and Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the O’Connor vacancy at the earliest opportunity.