Imagine that suddenly the White House and Senate liberals found themselves facing not one, but two Supreme Court vacancies. Surely Washington, D.C. would see the "mother of all confirmation battles." And that is exactly what Washington's rumor mill is predicting.
For weeks the buzz in town has been that both Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor are planning on stepping down at the end of the Court session in June. In Rehnquist's case, health and age are factors. O'Connor is said to desire an opportunity to enjoy her golden years.
Dual vacancies could become a White House political nightmare, as well as an opportunity to bring great change to the Court. Rehnquist, of course, is 100% conservative and would have to be replaced by someone just as strong or the White House would risk moving the Court further to the left.
O'Connor has been terrible on social issues and her departure could have a tremendous impact on cases involving religious liberty, the sanctity of life and the defense of marriage.
If the Administration does the right thing, future confirmation battles for Supreme Court vacancies will be massive, but each is a fight worth having. The possibility of impending high court vacancies also makes it even more critical for Senate Republicans to quickly and permanently resolve the current stalemate over judicial filibusters.
By the way, I was in the Reagan Administration when O'Connor was nominated. Top officials at the White House assured conservatives that she was "one of us," but, of course, she wasn't on the issues that mattered most and her record made that clear.
The same thing happened in the first Bush Administration with David Souter, who turned out to be even worse. We must not repeat that mistake again.
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