Chamber takes review of Roberts bid slowly

As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues its internal vetting of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts, the judge’s close ties to the business behemoth could complicate his confirmation if the Chamber decides to back him formally.

The Chamber’s internal examination of Roberts is similar to the close scrutiny it has given the past four Supreme Court nominees before endorsing each one. Still, the delay in backing Roberts also serves a political purpose.

Senate Democrats have shied away from publicly opposing Roberts until his record can be fully examined during the August recess, but a high-profile endorsement from the Chamber could give Democrats a ready opportunity to take a shot at Roberts, who some Democrats regard as excessively pro-industry.

Roberts served as counsel to the Chamber during his days as a corporate lawyer, developing close ties to the organization while working on two federal preemption cases. In the first, PhRMA v. Concannon, Roberts argued for the Chamber that Maine’s prescription-drug rebate program violated the interstate-commerce clause of the Constitution. The second case, Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine, involved whether state regulations conflicted with the Federal Boat Safety Act.

When Roberts successfully represented Toyota in a landmark decision limiting the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Chamber held a moot-court event for him to practice, handled press inquiries relating to the case and filed an amicus brief on Roberts’s behalf.