Maine’s two U.S. senators said Friday they would not use abortion as a litmus test for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement.

Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins favor allowing legal access to abortions. O’Connor, who announced her retirement earlier Friday, twice sided with a majority of justices who upheld Roe v. Wade.

A nominee would be considered qualified by the senators if he or she possessed the proper judicial temperament, Maine’s senators said. The nominee also should respect the rule of law and abide by legal precedent, they said.

O’Connor was “unpredictable” in her opinions, Snowe said, making her a model justice. “She was open-minded and predisposed toward examining all facets of a question,” Snowe said.

That was not the case with President Bush’s recent federal appeals court nominee, William Pryor Jr. of Alabama, whose personal and political views Snowe believed hindered his ability to evaluate legal questions objectively. She and Collins opposed his appointment.

Both Snowe and Collins helped broker a compromise earlier this year to head off the Republican leadership’s threat to do away with the filibuster on lower federal court nominees. The pact allows for filibusters in the most compelling cases.

If Democrats block Bush’s nominee with a filibuster, both Snowe and Collins said they would meet with Senate centrists to learn whether the opposition constitutes an “extraordinary circumstance.” If convinced it did, they would not vote to do away with the filibuster.

“My hope is we won’t get to that situation,” Collins said. “The expectation is clearly there would be an up or down vote on the nominee.”

Christian Potholm, Republican consultant and Bowdoin College government professor, said Bush is unlikely to appoint a “scary conservative” this time. Instead, he probably would choose a moderate that some Democrats could support. He wants to save his ultraconservative pick for the replacement of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Potholm said.

As women members of a political institution traditionally dominated by men, Snowe and Collins said they admired O’Connor for breaking the glass ceiling on the U.S. Supreme Court and were disappointed she stepped down.

“I hoped she might be nominated chief justice,” Collins said.



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