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Away From Home

Monday, July 11, 2005

O'Connor for Chief?

An interesting thought regarding the Supreme Court:

O'Connor announced plans to leave the high court two weeks ago and speculation is swirling about the future of the 80-year-old Rehnquist, who has thyroid cancer.

Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said senators had discussed with O'Connor a scenario under which she might consider changing her mind if Rehnquist retired and Bush offered to make her chief justice.

"The response that I heard was that she said she was flattered, that she didn't say no," Specter, who was not among that group, said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I think it would be quite a capping to her career if she served for a time, maybe a year or so."

He's right, it would be quite a capping to her career. She would be the first female Chief in history, and she deserves it. Earlier this term, she became the first female to ever preside over the Supreme Court (Rehnquist was still out, and Stevens missed the session due to a delayed flight).

That said, I'm not sure that an interim appointment is such a good idea. Consider this: Think about how difficult it will be to confirm any appointee right now. Now think about how much more difficult it will be to confirm anyone in two years, when Bush has little power (due to lame-duck status), 1/3 of the Senators are either campaigning for re-election or are also lame ducks, and everyone is focused on the Presidential campaign.

If a Justice retires in two years, it will be nigh-impossible to get a replacement confirmed before the next Congress and President take over. Everyone will realize this, and therefore one of the biggest campaign issues will be "Who do you support for the Court?" No Justice or supporter of Supreme Court integrity and tradition wants that.


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