William H. Rehnquist, saying he is looking forward to his new job as chief justice, sought today to set aside the bitter controversy sparked by his promotion.
"I'm not going to address myself to the past. I'm glad the confirmation process has finally run its course," Rehnquist told reporters the morning after his 65-33 victory in the Senate. "I'm looking forward to the future and trying to be a good chief justice."
Antonin Scalia, the federal appeals court judge who won unanimous Senate approval to become the newest Supreme Court justice, refused comment today. His secretary said he would not respond to press inquiries.
Both men are to be sworn in officially on Sept. 26, just three days before the Supreme Court begins a weeklong conference to prepare for the start of its 1986-87 term on Oct. 6.
While Scalia's nomination sailed through the Senate on its way to 98-0 approval, Rehnquist's was subjected to prolonged scrutiny. Democrats assaulted his integrity and commitment to equal justice.
He drew the most negative votes of any Supreme Court nominee to win confirmation.
Compared to 1971
Asked to compare this confirmation process to that of 1971, when he was named to the high court, Rehnquist said, "I know it was longer this time. Being longer, it was probably more arduous."
Rehnquist, 61, has been the court's most politically conservative member but Scalia, 50, generally is regarded as just as fervent a conservative.
Both men win high marks from those who know them best for their conviviality and intellect.
Rehnquist is replacing retiring Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, generally considered to be among the court's most conservative members.
Asked if he foresees any changes in life at the Supreme Court, Rehnquist said, "I believe you don't fix anything that's not broken. As far as I know, there's nothing broken."