By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: September 25, 2005
WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 - As President Bush moves to fill the second vacancy on the Supreme Court, he faces a new challenge in finding a jurist who can not only withstand Democratic scrutiny but hold together the support of Senate Republicans as well.
Polls have shown Mr. Bush's approval ratings near the lowest levels of his presidency. And Senate Republican strategists say that since his nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the court, members of their conference have grown increasingly willing to disagree with the White House, notably on matters like stem cell research, Mr. Bush's choice for ambassador to the United Nations and the war in Iraq.
Some, including Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, a member of the Judiciary Committee, are considering their own bids for the presidency.
Now, both socially conservative and more liberal Republican senators say they may vote against confirmation of the next nominee if the pick leans too far to the left or the right on prominent issues like abortion rights.
Any Republican defection could provide cover for Democrats who want to oppose confirmation, protecting them politically in Republican-leaning states. Democrats have vowed to dig in for a tough fight over the nominee to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor because she was a pivotal swing vote on the court.
"It is going to be different," said Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, who is socially liberal and has said he will vote to confirm Judge Roberts.