Ginsburg Winning Heavy Praise on Way to Confirmation
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Ruth Bader Ginsburg sailed toward confirmation to the Supreme Court today with a brief, closed-door appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. One Republican senator said no further investigation was needed.
The meeting, called to discuss any possible allegations about her personal life or conduct, lasted only 20 minutes. On her way into the session, Ginsburg was asked how she was doing and replied that she was, ″a little tired, but otherwise fine.″
Afterwards, committee members declined to say what was discussed during the meeting. Asked if any further probing was warranted, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said no.
″I will cast my vote for you with great pride,″ Sen. Paul Simon, a liberal Democrat, told Ginsburg on Thursday as she concluded three days in the witness chair.
Republicans were equally supportive.
″You’ve earned the right, in my opinion, to be on the Supreme Court,″ said Hatch, the panel’s senior GOP member and a strong conservative.
Ginsburg would become the second woman on the court and the first justice appointed by a Democrat in a quarter-century. She would replace retired Justice Byron R. White.
Ginsburg was praised by many outside witnesses, who were the committee’s last order of business, although some representatives of anti-abortion groups opposed her confirmation.
″This is a superb appointment,″ said former Transportation Secretary William T. Coleman Jr., a close friend of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Ginsburg has ″a great, a superior mind,″ Coleman said.
Former Education Secretary Shirley Hufstedler said Ginsburg was ″one of the major architects of the campaign that changed the Supreme Court’s collective mind about women.″
But Nellie Gray of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund said Ginsburg is ″prejudiced against preborn human beings.″ Susan Hirschmann of the conservative Eagle Forum called her a ″radical feminist, far out of the mainstream.″
Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., said he expects the full Senate to act on Ginsburg’s confirmation before recessing in early August.
The 60-year-old appeals court judge appeared tired but relieved after Biden gaveled to a close her public testimony session, which was sometimes tense but never acrimonious.
Ginsburg endorsed the right to abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment and said discrimination against homosexuals ″is to be deplored.″ But she deflected questions on many other issues that she said might come before the court.
Several senators expressed exasperation at Ginsburg’s refusal to give her opinions on issues such as gun control and voting rights.
Pressing her on capital punishment, Hatch said, ″I think you ought to tell us where you really come down on this thing.″
″I have tried to be as forthcoming as I can while still preserving my full and independent judgment,″ Ginsburg replied.
Later, however, Hatch told her, ″I hope my colleagues in this body realize that you’re a person of tremendous integrity.″ An abortion opponent, Hatch said he does not always agree with Ginsburg but that her rulings as a federal appellate judge interpreted the law without following a political agenda.
Biden said closed hearings will be standard from now on for all Supreme Court nominees in an effort to avoid anything similar to the 1991 battle that began with a news leak of a sexual harassment allegation against Clarence Thomas. He was confirmed to the high court only after a bitter fight.
″It’s delightful to start with you because it’s so easy,″ Biden told Ginsburg. He called her a ″squeaky-clean person.″
Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., said he expected Ginsburg to be confirmed, adding, ″I give you high praise, judge.″
Ginsburg also told senators Thursday:
-Judges may ″take into account ... the climate of an era, yes, but not the weather of the day, not what the newspapers are reporting″ about public opinion on legal issues.
-It’s time for lawmakers to take a new look at mandatory minimum sentences that have been enacted for some crimes, particularly drug offenses. Many judges say such laws transfer sentencing discretion from judges to prosecutors, who decide what charges to bring.
-One day women may no longer be exempt from draft registration. States can no longer exempt women from jury service, she noted, adding, ″It’s not unknown in the world that women are obligated to serve their country as men are.″
Under questioning by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Ginsburg said she accepted a membership in 1980 in a Rockville, Md., country club but was not required to pay the initiation fee, which was $25,000 when she resigned in 1983. Ginsburg said she did pay dues to the Woodmont Country Club.
Hundreds of federal judges accept such free memberships and disclose them on their annual financial disclosure reports. Grassley said Ginsburg told him in a letter that she should have disclosed the initiation fee exemption. Grassley said he did not consider the matter a roadblock to confirmation.