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Pryor speaks about judges, Iraq conflict

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The confirmation of Supreme Court judicial nominee John Roberts may go smoother than expected.

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor said he would vote to confirm Roberts to the nation's highest court.

Pryor made the comments at the North Central Arkansas Regional Economic Development summit Aug. 11 at the Baxter County Fairgrounds in Mountain Home.

"I met with Judge Roberts about two weeks ago and he has great credentials," Pryor said. "He is one of the best lawyers in the country. I'm not aware of anything that would give me pause for his nomination."

Pryor, a Democrat, said he still expects a battle in Congress over Roberts' nomination, but he doesn't expect Senate Democrats to evoke the filibuster to stop the nomination. He said he hopes the White House releases more information about Roberts' litigation record.

"I'm not on the Judicial Committee, so it's not my call when it comes to pressuring the White House for documents," Pryor said.

"I'm pleased the White House released several documents this week. I want them to release the same kinds of documents that have been released when other judicial nominees were being considered, nothing more."

The fight over judicial nominations has been raging in Congress since the early spring.

Pryor said by the end of April only four items of legislation had been passed because of partisan bickering in Congress.

Democrats were threatening to filibuster judicial nominees and Republicans were threatening to evoke the "nuclear option" which would have ended the filibuster.

Pryor joined with six other Democrats and seven Republicans who agreed not to end the filibuster and allow qualified nominees to be confirmed.

"I joined the 'Gang of 14' because we were becoming one of the least productive Congresses in our history," Pryor said. "The compromise enabled us to do our jobs as legislators."

The divisive nature of the nomination process is critical in appointing the right justice, Pryor said.

"Only 110 people have served on the Supreme Court in the 215 years it's been in existence," Pryor said. "One person's judicial philosophy can have a major impact on law in this country for generations."

Pryor said he has been focusing his attention on the war in Iraq, as well.

"Every day you're going to hear a good news story from Iraq and a bad news story," Pryor said.

If he had been in the Senate in 2002, Pryor said he would have authorized President George Bush to use military force in Iraq -- even if he, Pryor, knew there were no weapons of mass destruction and no links to Al Qaida.

"It's something I would have to think about, but Saddam Hussein was an oppressive leader who needed to be removed," Pryor said.

At one point during his speech, Pryor took a playful jab at Arkansas Attorney General and gubernatorial hopeful Mike Beebe who was in attendance.

"I think Mike Beebe could be the second best attorney general who has ever served this state," Pryor said to a chorus of laughter.

Pryor served as Arkansas' attorney general from 1998 to 2002.

One speaker who was slated to speak, Lt. Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, was absent.

Rockefeller, who announced earlier this year that he intended to run for governor in 2006, was diagnosed with a serious blood disease in July.

The disease forced Rockefeller to end his bid in the governor's race.



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