Leahy plans active role on Judiciary Committee

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says he plans to play an active role when President Bush has an opportunity to fill a vacancy on the United States Supreme Court. Leahy says it’s critical that the president not appoint a conservative partisan to the court.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) When the new Congress convenes in Washington in January, the Republicans will enjoy a larger majority in the U.S. Senate. They picked up four seats in Tuesday’s election and they defeated Democratic leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota. These changes for the Democrats in Washington will elevate Senator Patrick Leahy’s role within the Party.

On Tuesday, Leahy was elected to his sixth term in the U.S. Senate. His 30 years of service now places him seventh in seniority for the entire chamber.

Leahy has been the leading Democratic spokesperson on the Judiciary Committee and he anticipates that a possible vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court will be one of the key concerns to come before the committee. It’s a committee that will have a new chairman in January; Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter will replace Utah Senator Orrin Hatch as the head of that panel:

(Leahy) “I hope that the president understands that the Constitution says ‘advise and consent’ – not advise and rubber stamp. And I noticed today that the incoming chairman, Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania, has sent the White House almost exactly the same message I did and that is, don’t send up somebody that’s intended to divide the country. Let’s work together to find somebody to unify. And I think considering that fact that history will judge him on who he appoints, this is something that he ought to be thinking about – not partisan politics but thinking about the history books.”

(Kinzel) Leahy also thinks the war in Iraq will dominate debate in Congress next year:

(Leahy) “The overriding thing of course is how do we get out of Iraq. And we’re going to have to get out of Iraq, we’re going to have to get out of there before we’re seen throughout the whole Islamic world as nothing but an occupying force. And in that regard the president’s going to need support from both parties and I’m perfectly willing to give him that support if he truly wants to get out of there.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says he hopes that President Bush, having won another term in office, will now make a greater effort to work with the international community to bring peace to Iraq.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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