NEW YORK – Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Sunday that President Bush rejected a plan to have Sandra Day O’Connor serve out the entire Supreme Court session.

The Judiciary Committee chairman said he was disappointed Bush will move as soon as Monday to name a new candidate to replace his first pick, Harriet Miers, instead of letting the political fires cool a bit.

“The expectation is that it is very imminent,” Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN’s “Late Edition.” “The president apparently has decided not to take my suggestion that we ought to let Justice O’Connor serve out the term.”

Speculation Sunday centered on two conservative appeals court judges – Samuel Alito Jr. and Michael Luttig – to take over for the moderate O’Connor.

Alito, 55, is nicknamed “Scalito” because he reminds analysts of ultraconservative Justice Antonin Scalia. He once voted to uphold a law requiring a wife to get her husband’s permission to get an abortion.

Luttig, 51, a former Justice Department official, is also a staunch conservative who backed the Bush administration’s plan to jail terror suspects indefinitely.

But he also once voted to overturn a ban on certain late-term abortions, a decision that could anger abortion rights opponents.

“There could be a real tough battle here and a real tough fight, depending on whom the president puts up,” Specter said.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said a hard-liner like Alito would get a frosty reception from the same moderates who backed Chief Justice John Roberts’ nomination.

Other judges named as possible candidates include Karen Williams, Priscilla Owen and Alice Batchelder, as well as Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan.

Before the Harriet Miers debacle, Bush was hoping to reach out to women or to Hispanics by naming a non-white male to the high court.

But with the White House in crisis, analysts say his top priority is bring the right wing back into the fold by naming a hard-line conservative to the bench.

(c) 2005, New York Daily News.

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