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Brownback Asks for Meeting With Gonzales

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said Monday that he is seeking a meeting with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales later this week to clarify his positions on the Constitution in advance of his potential nomination to the Supreme Court.

In the latest signal of unrest among social conservatives over Gonzales, Brownback — a member of the Judiciary Committee, a leading social conservative in the chamber and a potential presidential candidate in 2008 — said that his unusual request was designed to explore where Gonzales stands on key issues.

The meeting would not necessarily determine how he would rule on certain issues, Brownback said, but would hopefully determine whether, as Supreme Court justice, he would “live within the text of the document.”

“If people are throwing names around, I think it’s timely to talk to people involved,” Brownback said.

He acknowledged that the White House and Justice Department may reject this request because Gonzales isn’t even a nominee yet. “I’d like to have that chance,” Brownback added.

In the weeks leading up to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s July 1 retirement announcement, Gonzales’ name was floated throughout the media as a likely member of the unofficial list of potential nominees. Upon O’Connor’s announcement, social conservatives mounted a heated campaign to prevent President Bush from nominating his longtime friend, questioning his rulings on abortion as a Texas Supreme Court justice and revealing previously private conversations regarding his views on the topic.

A full-throttled endorsement from Brownback would likely be a seal of approval among conservatives. But Brownback declined to say whether he could envision himself ever voting against Gonzales as a nominee, and he declined to say how candid he would be with the White House if he had the chance to speak with the Attorney General.

“I’m just not willing to answer. This is a sensitive topic,” he said, adding that he’d like to avoid such a showdown. “That’s why I think it would be good to talk to [Gonzales] before he’s the nominee.”

Brownback has spoken to White House officials about the vacancy, but only on a very preliminary basis. He said he has not yet raised any specific questions about any nominees in those discussions.

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