Roberts Confirmation Hearings to Begin

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday he will not ask Supreme Court nominee John Roberts (search) whether he would vote to overturn the landmark decision that legalized abortion.

Sen. Arlen Specter (search), R-Pa., did say he planned to ask Roberts, the president's pick to succeed the late William H. Rehnquist as chief justice, whether there is a right to privacy in the Constitution.

Specter said he was uncertain whether Roberts would favor overturning the Roe v. Wade (search) decision from 1973 that established a right to abortion. Specter supports a woman's right to choose to end her pregnancy.

"I think it is inappropriate to ask him head-on if he's going to overturn Roe, but I believe that there are many issues close to the issue, like his respect for precedent," Specter told a Sunday news program.

Roberts will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to be peppered with questions on everything from abortion, separation of church and state, civil rights and the death penalty. But barring any surprises, most on Capitol Hill expect he will ultimately win confirmation.

The proceedings, which begin on Monday at noon, will delve into all facets of Roberts' judicial and legal background. What may complicate the process a tad is that President Bush has nominated Roberts to the top post of the High Court.

"I am honored and humbled by the confidence that the president has shown in me. And I'm very much aware that if I am confirmed, I would succeed a man I deeply respect and admire," Roberts said after the announcement.

Prior to Rehnquist's death, Roberts was nominated to replace outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (search). Laura Bush said in a radio interview this week that she doesn't expect her husband to nominate another justice to fill O'Connor's seat until after Roberts is confirmed.

As for Bush, he's pushing for a speedy and fair confirmation process.

"They know his record and his fidelity to the law," Bush has said of the senators who will be questioning his nominee. "I'm confident that the Senate can complete hearings and confirm him as chief justice within a month."

Next week's hearings are the second attempt to push the president's pick for the judicial bench through. There was a weeklong delay after Rehnquist's death; Roberts served as a pallbearer for the late chief justice.

Since his initial July nomination, Roberts has visited lawmakers on Capitol Hill several times; Friday was the last day he spent paying those courtesy visits. In addition, 50,000 documents related to his legal and professional past have been released.

But Democrats have been decrying the amount of paperwork released on Roberts, saying they need more information to ensure the next potential Supreme Court justice will not be too extreme and who will serve the best interests of the country. Just this week, Democratic leaders wrote a letter to Bush asking to ensure their input on O'Connor's replacement.

Roberts' opponents call the nominee a right-wing corporate lawyer with a thin record that raises serious concerns.

"I think they have a duty to present why people should not be afraid of Judge Roberts," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has said.

Republicans say Roberts is a solid conservative and point to his credentials, including how he served as the U.S. deputy attorney general, worked in the attorney general's office during the Reagan administration and in 1980, clerked for Rehnquist, who was then an associate justice.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said a nominee's credentials, ethics and temperament have been the traditional criteria for confirming justices.

"That's what President Bush found in Judge Roberts and what he'll look for in the nominee for the new vacancy," she said. "The president has a constitutional responsibility to nominate someone to the bench, and no one should have veto power over the president's constitutional responsibility."

FOX News' Jennifer Davis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.