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Schumer: White House Meeting Today A Good First Step, But Consultation Must Be Real On Supreme Court Nomination

Schumer Reiterates Call on President to Convene Summit to Continue Consultation on High Court NomineePresident Bush Agrees with Schumer that Court Nominees Philosophy Matters

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts, spoke on the floor today calling for real consultation in the Supreme Court nomination process. He repeated his call for the President convene a summit on the nomination and also pointed to an important statement from President Bush today in which he agreed that a nominees philosophy matters. Schumer has suggested numerous times that a Supreme Court nominees philosophy is a key factor in deciding whether or not to support a nominee.

President Bush said at a press conference today, &when I finally make a decision, it's going to be one based upon a lot of research and a lot of thought about the character of the person, the integrity of the person, the ability of the person to do the job, and the philosophy of the person.

A transcript of Schumers floor speech this morning follows:

Mr. President, thank you. I was just here listening to our majority leader's words on consultation and the process thus far. And Id like to make a couple of points. The first is that I think we're off to a good start. I certainly agree with the Majority Leader. The phone calls that have been made, this morning's meeting with Senators Frist and Reid and Specter and Leahy is a good first start. And that is how it should be. But I think we have to look at simply phone calls or meetings, if they're devoid of substance, are not going to lead to real consultation. I certainly agree with the Majority Leader's point.

The Senate is not a conominator, and it's the president who has to do the nominating. The way consultation has accurately, has successfully worked in the past is for the president to quietly, privately offer some of the names he's considering to those on both sides of the aisle and get opinions about those names. How would this one fare? How would that one fare? Do you think this one would cause a fight? How about that one? It's not that we would be conominators at all.

A good consultation means that that the senator from Tennessee discusses who he's thinking of nominating and takes the temperature particularly of the other party to see if a consensus nominee could come about. Thus far the president or any of the people working for him Ive had one call with Andrew Card, the Chief of Staff, has not offered a single name. From what I understand, this morning the president did not offer a single name. And so we're off to a good first start. Make no mistake about it. It is a good first start to begin the consultation process. But the consultation process, for it to work, is not going to be oh, okay, who do you think is a good name, and that's that, when we don't have a back and forth. In fact, for consultation to work and we all want it to work the president should suggest some names and get the opinion of those of us in the Senate.

This is how it worked with President Clinton. It wasn't simply that President Clinton called up Orrin Hatch and said, give me some names and didn't have a discussion. President Clinton bounced off names. And in Orrin Hatch's book, he states that one of the names very much wanted to nominate was Bruce Babbitt, the former interior secretary and governor of Arizona. And while Orrin hatch didn't state how he would vote and Ive talked to Orrin a little about this he said, I think Babbitt would cause a big fight. And wisely, President Clinton did not offer his name.

So that's how the consultation process, to be successful ought to go and in my talk with Andrew card, I told him something that Ive said repeatedly, and I think I speak for just about every member of this caucus on this side of the aisle. We don't want a fight. We certainly don't relish a fight. We would much prefer a consensus nominee, and furthermore, we know that that nominee is not going to be a liberal or even a moderate, it's likely to be a conservative, but our view is and again this time Im speaking for myself, but I think a lot of my colleagues share it our view is very simple, that that nominee; though conservative, will interpret law, not make it, will be thoughtful, will be pragmatic, will understand the other point of view, and if that happens, I think we can have a process that works well.

So in summary, Mr. President, the consultation we've had is great. The number of phone calls may exceed any others that have been made, that have been named, but so far, at least according to my phone call and the ones of many of my colleagues that Ive talked to and from what Ive been told about the meeting this morning, we haven't gotten into the real nittygritty of consultation, not conomination, absolutely not. The president's the nominator, but the nittygritty means offering some names, the president offers some names and gets the opinion before he makes his decision, and the decision, of course, by the constitution is solely his as to whether that nominee would get broad acceptance or whether that nominee is likely to cause quite a stir here in the senate.

So let us hope that this is not the end of the consultation process but the beginning. Let us hope that there will be the kind of dialogue. I'd reiterate my call to the president to have a summit, to call a good number of democrats and republicans together for a day at Camp David, for an evening or a dinner at the white house and have a real backandforth where we roll a serious, detailed discussion however we all feel discussion of how we all feel. Who will benefit if that happens, who will benefit if there's real consultation? Certainly the president, certainly the Senate, certainly the Supreme Court, but most of all certainly the American people. Mr. President, I yield the floor.