Bush nominates Catholic Roberts to succeed Rehnquist as Chief Justice

.- In a move some watchers had been anticipating, and many pro-life groups had been hoping for, President George Bush this morning nominated Judge John G. Roberts as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court--succeeding Judge William R. Rehnquist who died of thyroid cancer on Saturday.

Roberts, a Catholic, had been slated to complete his confirmation hearings this week as successor for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. With his announcement, the president also called on the Senate to speed the process along and confirm Roberts before the high Court reconvenes on October 3rd.

The last time the Supreme Court faced two empty seats at once was in 1972, when two judges retired in the face of terminal illness--an event which produced the nomination of Rehnquist to the court. He was later made Chief Justice in 1986 by then President Reagan.

Roberts has recently undergone much-criticized scrutiny by many Senators over the effect of his Catholic faith as a judge. Many have deemed this an unconstitutional "religious litmus test" and have called for a fair assessment of Robert's abilities as a judge.

Although Robert's senate critics have expressed that they've found little in his record to deny the nomination, with the heightened position as Chief Justice, senate democrats especially have promised increased standards and vigilance in the confirmation process.

Speaking alongside President Bush in the Oval Office this morning, Judge Roberts said: "I am honored and humbled by the confidence the president has shown in me.

He added that he is "very much aware that if I am confirmed I would succeed a man I deeply respect and admire, a man who has been very kind to me for 25 years."

President Bush added that "He's a man of integrity and fairness and throughout his life he's inspired the respect and loyalty of others...John Roberts built a record of excellence and achievement and reputation for goodwill and decency toward others in his extraordinary career."

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