(CNSNews.com) - Groups that oppose the nomination of Judge John Roberts to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court are even more furious now that President Bush has nominated Roberts to serve as chief justice.
President Bush made the announcement Monday morning, after learning that Chief Justice William Rehnquist had died of complications from thyroid cancer late Saturday night.
"Now that Roberts' attitudes toward women have been revealed, it is an outrage and an insult to the women of this country that George W. Bush has nominated such a jurist to be Chief Justice of the United States," said National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy in a statement on Monday.
NOW insisted that President Bush must "release every document" from Roberts' previous jobs in the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush.
"How dare Bush nominate this candidate for the top position on the Supreme Court when his administration has deliberately concealed hundreds of thousands of pages of his writings, during a time that he was one of the top lawyers representing the people of the United States?," Gandy asked.
"If the Bush administration refuses to release these papers, we must ask ourselves what they are hiding. And the Senate must ask the same question."
NOW urged the Senate to "ask even tougher questions" of Roberts during his confirmation hearing.
"If Roberts is confirmed as chief justice, Bush will have established right-wing leadership of the Court for another 30 years -- a lifetime legacy of the Bush presidency that women and girls will have a lifetime to regret," Gandy said.
She also criticized President Bush's "cynicism and lack of compassion" in nominating Chief Justice William Rehnquist's successor so soon after Rehnquist's death.
"Bush's lack of sensitivity has been on prominent display this past month as he avoided Gold Star mom Cindy Sheehan and was stubbornly slow responding to the humanitarian crisis in New Orleans and Mississippi. With the South still in turmoil from Hurricane Katrina, Bush is pressuring the Senate to rush through this very important process and confirm John Roberts to a lifetime as chief justice while the country is looking the other way," Gandy complained.
NOW also urged President Bush to take a "second opportunity" to name a "moderate woman" as Justice O'Connor's replacement.
The Alliance for Justice, which also opposes Roberts' nomination, issued a statement urging the Senate to insist that the White House "provide all materials shedding light on Roberts' views on privacy, civil rights, women's rights, public health and worker protections." That includes all memos dating back to Roberts' tenure in the U.S. Solicitor General's Office, the Alliance for Justice said.
"The way the Senate handles the Roberts nomination will set an important precedent for future nominations to the Supreme Court," said Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice.
As for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement, Aron said President Bush "should confer with senators to choose a consensus nominee."
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who has expressed reservations about John Roberts' nomination, said the Senate's "advice [sic] and consent responsibility takes on an added dimension" with Robert's nomination to serve as chief justice.
"When the Senate turns to these matters we will be mindful that we also share with the President the responsibility for approving a successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. We look forward to consulting with him on the makeup of the Supreme Court. These are lifetime appointments that we can expect to extend into the lives of our grandchildren and great grandchildren."
Leahy added that the most urgent challenges facing the nation at this time are relief for "Americans still suffering in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf."
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), another member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Roberts' nomination to serve as chief justice means the stakes have become greater - and that means John Roberts "bears a heavier burden when he comes before the Senate."
Kennedy said a review of the documents released so far raises "serious concerns" about Roberts' support for voting rights, women's rights and equality:
"Before the Senate acts on John Roberts's new nomination, we should know even more about his record, and we should know whom the President intends to nominate as a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor," Kennedy wrote. "The American people care deeply about the overall balance of their highest court, and its dedication as an institution to the protection of their rights."
Kennedy said given the "national disaster of biblical proportions" along the Gulf Coast, it is difficult at this time for the American people to participate fully in the selection of the next chief justice.
"The President should take this time to unite and heal the country -- by remaining focused on helping the hurricane victims recover, honoring Chief Justice Rehnquist's memory by allowing the nation to mourn, and taking time to ensure our next steps on the Supreme Court point the country in the direction of progress."
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