Breyer spends night at White House


WASHINGTON, May 15 -- President Clinton's new nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Stephen Breyer, arrived for an overnight stay at the White House Sunday, declaring he felt 'absolutely terrific' about the nomination.

Greeted by White House counsel Lloyd Cutler as he arrived in the afternoon with his wife, Joanna, and daughter, Chloe, Breyer was all smiles as he chatted briefly with reporters.


'I feel great. I feel absolutely terrific -- never better,' he said.

Breyer was the guest of the president, who invited him to sleep over in the Lincoln bedroom after the federal appeals judge was unable to make it to Washington for Clinton's announcement of his selection Friday evening.

Climaxing a week of public angst over three candidates, Clinton appeared abruptly in the Rose Garden to announce his pick of Breyer to replace retiring Justice Harry Blackmun but the late notice precluded Breyer from attending.


To atone, a formal announcement ceremony was set for Monday at the White House.

While deferring substantive questions until his confirmation hearings, Breyer did say Sunday he wanted to serve on the high court because 'it's a tremendous honor, it's a tremendous challenge, it's an opportunity to do something that will perhaps help the lives of ordinary Americans.'

'Any lawyer, anyone connected with law, obviously thinks of the Supreme Court with awe and respect,' he added.

Aides said Clinton had invited Breyer to spend the night at the White House Sunday in the Lincoln bedroom, along with his wife, who is a psychologist and daughter of British Conservative leader John Balkenham.

The other two of Breyer's children are expected to be on hand Monday for the midday White House ceremony.

Upon arriving at Washington's National Airport Sunday, the Breyer family first climbed into a cab until the White House van dispatched to pick them up finally caught up with them and brought them to the executive mansion.

Breyer welcomed the wide-ranging statements of support from lawmakers who will have to approve his nomination, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R- Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee who had voiced opposition to top contender Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit.


'I'm delighted,' Breyer said of Hatch's support.

Meanwhile, the leading Democrat and Republican in the Senate joined Sunday in predicting easy approval of Breyer's nomination and Breyer said he would be heading up to Capitol Hill during his visit to meet with some lawmakers.

Republican leader Robert Dole of Kansas and Democratic leader George Mitchell of Maine told NBC's 'Meet the Press' program that swift confirmation before the judiciary panel, where Breyer once served as chief counsel, was likely.

Mitchell, who plans to leave after this term, having turned down a chance for the Supreme Court job, said, 'I think he's a very good judge, a sound legal mind, good training, well experienced, I think an excellent choice by the president.'

Mitchell also said, 'If another vacancy occurs and if it's offered to me I'll consider it at that time.'

Uncontentious Senate approval was, to many observers, a key to Clinton's decision to pass over Babbitt and his longtime friend, Arkansas federal appeals Judge Richard Arnold, in favor of Breyer, a centrist judge on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. meanwhile, agreed that Breyer should be easily confirmed but expressed some disappointment that the president had let himself be 'pushed and pulled by political considerations, polls and whatever.'


Leahy, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told CBS's 'Face the Nation' program, 'You have to stand up every so often and say, 'Look, this is what I'm going to do.' And a lot of us are willing to go to bat for him.'

White House chief of staff Thomas 'Mack' McLarty, however, said the politics of confirmation was never a consideration for Clinton.

McLarty told the CBS program that, as someone who 'fought for NAFTA, ' deficit reduction and other difficult legislative goals, 'I think this is a president who is pretty proven as a fighter.'

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