Senate Democrats

Reid and Leahy Offer President Bush Unified Democratic Principles on the Supreme Court

Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Senator Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent the following letter to President Bush today, offering unified democratic principles for the next nominee to the United States Supreme Court.

Full text of letter below:

September 28, 2005

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

Dear Mr. President:

The Senate will vote tomorrow on your nomination of John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States. Some Democratic Senators will vote to confirm Judge Roberts and others will vote against his confirmation. Nonetheless, Democrats are united on certain principles regarding the Supreme Court, and we urge you to keep these principles in mind as you nominate a successor to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

The death of Chief Justice Rehnquist and the retirement of Justice O’Connor have created a period of transition on the Supreme Court. This is not an occasion for a radical shift in the ideological balance of the Court. Justice O’Connor has been a voice of moderation and reason during her two decades of service. Just as Chief Justice Rehnquist will be replaced by a man who shares his general judicial philosophy, Justice O’Connor should be replaced by a mainstream candidate, not by an activist who would bring an ideological agenda to the Court.

There are some potential nominees who would clearly fail this test. We strongly urge you to refrain from nominating to the Supreme Court any of the handful of judicial nominees who were filibustered during the past four years, including the three judges who were narrowly confirmed earlier this year as part of the bipartisan agreement that averted the so-called “nuclear option.” The nomination of any of these individuals to the Supreme Court would represent an unnecessary provocation and would be met by substantial opposition in the Senate.

We urge you to pick one of the many qualified mainstream candidates who can win widespread bipartisan support in the Senate and among the American people. We have privately offered you some thoughts in this regard, and remain willing to work with you to achieve consensus.

Finally, we wish to express our disappointment that the Justice Department rejected a reasonable request by Judiciary Committee Democrats for certain documents written by Judge Roberts when he served as Deputy Solicitor General in the first Bush Administration. For some Democrats, the failure to make these documents available plays a role in deciding that Judge Roberts should not be confirmed as Chief Justice. For others, the availability of other documents written by Judge Roberts, including two years of judicial opinions, lessens the significance of the Solicitor General documents. But the decision of our caucus not to force a confrontation over these documents should not be interpreted as acquiescence in the decision to withhold material that we considered relevant. Consistent with our constitutional duty, we reserve the right to oppose confirmation of a future nominee if documents that we deem central to the nominee’s suitability for office are not made available to Senators.

The Supreme Court is the final guardian of the rights and freedoms that Americans hold dear. At this critical moment, Senate Democrats will perform our constitutional Advice and Consent responsibility with heightened vigilance.


Harry Reid – Democratic Leader, United States Senate
Patrick Leahy – Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee