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Nomination must go before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Chairman: Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania
Elected to a fifth term in November, Specter, 75, had to fight to win the committee gavel after conservatives blasted him for his remarks that President Bush might have a hard time getting anti-abortion judicial nominees through the Senate. He is scheduled to complete treatment for Hodgkin's disease Friday. A true moderate who has been through every Supreme Court nomination since 1981, Specter is still regarded with some suspicion by conservatives, who remember his role in the rejection of Robert H. Bork in 1987. Famously independent-minded, he is a wild card in the nomination process.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah
Hatch, 71, was the committee's chairman for more than seven years before being forced to step down by term limits. A staunch conservative, he has been a strong proponent for allowing judicial nominees a straight up-or-down vote by the full Senate, even though he kept a number of nominees bottled up in committee during the Clinton administration. He will be up for re-election to a sixth term in 2006.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas
Elected in 2002, Cornyn is a former Texas Supreme Court justice and attorney general -- and was mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee. Cornyn, 53, has been at the forefront of Republican efforts to stop filibusters of judicial nominations.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
Graham, who won notoriety as one of the House floor managers for the Clinton impeachment, was elected to the Senate in 2002. Graham, 50, has made a point of reaching across the aisle to compromise -- most notably as part of the "Gang of 14," seven senators from each party who brokered a deal in late May to avoid a showdown over filibusters and judicial nominations. But his role drew criticism from conservative interest groups and constituents, so he might feel pressure to toe the party line during a nomination fight.
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas
Brownback, 48, was elected to a third term in November and joined the committee in January. One of the most avid prolife senators -- whether the subject is human cloning or abortion rights -- he is also a lawyer who asserts that Roe v. Wade was a poorly decided case from a purely legal standpoint. Considered a potential presidential candidate in 2008.
Other Republican members of the committee include Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio, another member of the "Gang of 14"; freshman Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of the Senate's most conservative members; Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa; Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona; and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general.
Ranking member: Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont
The top Democrat on the committee, Leahy, 65, also served as chairman when Democrats controlled the Senate from mid-2001 until early 2003. He and Specter have a strong working relationship -- they are collaborating on legislation to establish a federal trust fund to compensate people sickened by asbestos -- but Leahy is a reliable Democratic vote. He was re-elected in November to a sixth term.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts
Elected to the Senate in 1962, Kennedy is a leader among the liberal Democrats and has taken one of the hardest lines on what an acceptable replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor should look and sound like. Kennedy, 73, ran for president in 1980 and was chairman of the committee from 1979 to 1981.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware
Biden, who said last month that he intends to run for president in 2008, is a tough but often garrulous questioner who was elected to the Senate in 1972. He chaired the committee from 1987 to 1995 -- a period that included fights over Bork and Justice Clarence Thomas as well as the relatively smooth confirmations of Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Biden, 62, is a key player in the continuing effort to block the confirmation of John R. Bolton as U.N. ambassador until the White House hands over information requested by Democrats.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California
The first -- and only -- woman on the committee, Feinstein, 72, has said that while it is important to her that a woman replace O'Connor, she has other criteria as well. She is a strong supporter of abortion rights but is known to be tough on crime and is working with Specter on the renewal of the USA Patriot Act. Feinstein will be up for re-election to a fourth term next year; she has been on the committee since she joined the Senate in 1992.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York
Probably the most outspoken Democrat on the issue of judicial nominations, Schumer, 54, suggested that Bush convene a summit with members of both parties to discuss O'Connor's replacement. Schumer, who was elected to a second term in 2004, has said that he is looking for a justice who would interpret the law, not make it.
The other Democrats are Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's Democratic whip; and Sens. Herbert Kohl and Russell D. Feingold, both of Wisconsin.