Although Sandra O'Connor faces no major hurdles in becoming...

By HELEN THOMAS, UPI White House Reporter

WASHINGTON -- Although Sandra O'Connor faces no major hurdles in becoming the first woman Supreme Court justice, President Reagan worked Wednesday to calm conservative concerns and predicted quick Senate confirmation.

Aside from outraged cries from anti-abortion groups, there was no firm opposition to Mrs. O'Connor where it counts -- among the 98 men and two women in the Senate who will finally decide whether she is the first woman to serve on the high court.


Senate Democratic leader Robert Byrd and Assistant Republican leader Ted Stevens said Wednesday they knew of no senators who were expressly against Mrs. O'Connor, despite reservations expressed by a few.

The president hopes for -- and expects -- quick cw39:wP3P rams and mailgrams were 290 pro and 2,573 against and phone calls were 263 pro and 1,554 against.

Senate GOP leaders want to finish the process before Congress begins its long summer recess beginning in August.


However, Senate aides said hearings are not likely to begin for about two weeks, since the nomination has not been sent to the Senate pending completion of an FBI check.

Mrs. O'Connor returned to her Pheonix office Wednesday to find her desk littered with messages and bouquets from well wishers. A jar of jelly beans stood out, but she told reporters the confection was the gift of a friend -- not the president.

'I'm trying to clear up some cases and trying to deal with the FBI,' she said, noting the law enforcement agency is 'requiring a lot of information' for its check on her background.

Mrs. O'Connor declined interviews and questions about issues, but when asked if her nomination was 'sunk in' she said, 'No, I just don't believe it.'

The abortion dispute -- compounded by Mrs. O'Connor's support of the Equal Rights Amendment -- could lead to fireworks during Senate hearings and possibly drag out the approval of the 51-year-old Arizona Appeals Court judge.

But Reagan is working to defuse that possibility by contacting conservative opponents to assure them Mrs. O'Connor is ideologically acceptable, White House communications director David Gergen said.

'Clearly,' said Gergen, 'There are some senators who are going to want to raise questions about her. But he (Reagan) believes there will be strong support for her.'


One strand of the president's fence-mending work with the right was a meeting Tuesday with conservative Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. Helms said Wednesday he hasn't made up his mind about Mrs. O'Connor, but added, 'I don't think that there's any question about her being confirmed unless something comes up that I don't know about.'

Anti-ERA activist Phyllis Schlafly told reporters in Chicago that Reagan was being supported on the nomination by people 'who would never vote for him, who would never back his economic program and who are not his friends.

'And I hope he won't end up the way Jimmy Carter did, which is to find that he tried to curry favor with his enemies but he lost out all the way around,' she said.

Mrs. O'Connor, a stalwart Republican, was plucked from relative legal obscurity by Reagan's historic decision to name her as a replacement for retired Justice Potter Stewart.

She returned to her Pheonix office Wednesday morning to find her desk littered with about 200 'pink slips' seeking return phone calls.

'She's besieged, poor lady,' said Peter Roussel, a deputy White House press secretary sent to Arizona to help her adapt to her new fame.

The opposition came because of Mrs. O'Connor's activities in the Arizona legislature, where she served as Senate majority leader. Anti-abortion groups, including the National Right-to-Life Committee, argue several of her votes were pro-abortion. White House spokesmen insist the legislative stands have been misinterpreted.


Gergen told reporters that Reagan hopes foes of the nominee will 'keep an open mind' until they hear her views and the president is trying to head off a fight.

In addition to his half-hour meeting with Helms -- just an hour after making his choice public Tuesday -- the president also telephoned Rev. Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority, who spoke out vehemently against the nomination.

Cal Thomas, vice president of Moral Majority, said Falwell told the president 'he disagreed with him on this issue but he's not throwing the president out with the bath water.'

Although Reagan assured Falwell that Mrs. O'Connor personally opposed abortion, Thomas said, 'We've been down the 'I'm personally opposed but -- ' alley before only to be mugged at the end of it.'

Stevens said the GOP Senate leadership intends to win confirmation on the nominee by the Aug. 3 starting date of the 5-week congressional recess.

There is some need for quick action. Although the court will not reconvene until October, the justices work over the summer studying legal briefs on appeals and gathering in Washington in late September for their first conference.

Stevens said Senate Republican leader Howard Baker Jr. has spoken with Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., about getting the confirmation hearings started.


A committee aide said the hearings could not start for a couple of weeks -- because the White House has not yet sent the nomination to Capitol Hill.

Gergen said the FBI expects to complete its investigation of Mrs.

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