President Bush is stressing his support for Judge Samuel Alito as the U.S. Senate prepares to open hearings on his nomination to the Supreme Court. Mr. Bush is urging the Senate to conduct the hearings in a dignified manner.
President Bush invited Judge Alito to the White House for breakfast, just hours before the start of his confirmation hearings.
When their meeting ended, they walked into the White House Rose Garden before waiting reporters. In a brief statement, the president sent Samuel Alito off to Capitol Hill with words of praise.
"Sam's got the intellect necessary to bring a lot of class to that court," he said. "He has got the judicial temperament to make sure that the court is a body that interprets the law, and does not try to write the law."
Mr. Bush noted that the Alito nomination has won the endorsement of the American Bar Association, which represents members of the legal community in the United Sates. He called Judge Alito eminently qualified, and said many members of the Senate have been impressed with his choice for the high court.
But all the same, the hearings are expected to spark controversy. Like Chief Justice John Roberts, who was confirmed just months ago, Samuel Alito has a record as a political conservative. But John Roberts replaced William Rehnquist, who had a similar philosophy, while Judge Alito was picked to follow Sandra Day O'Connor, who is more of a centrist and has often cast the deciding vote in a court almost evenly split along ideological lines.
Senate opponents fear Samuel Alito could tip the court far to the right, and they have promised tough questioning during the hearings on matters such as abortion and presidential war powers. President Bush urged them to keep the process dignified.
"The Supreme Court is a dignified body; Sam is a dignified person. And my hope, of course, is that the Senate bring dignity to the process and give this man a fair hearing and an up or down vote on the Senate floor," added President Bush.
The hearings are expected to last about a week, with the Alito nomination going to the full Senate for a vote next Tuesday.