Following the tragic embarrassment of the feds’ handling of the Katrina debacle, no one can say that the Shrub dragged his heels on replacing the late William H. Rehnquist as chief justice of the US Supreme Court.
Bright and early on Labor Day, Dubya Bush announced that he has nominated associate justice nominee John Roberts to take over the still-warm seat of Rehnquist, who died only two days prior to the announcement. Senate confirmation hearings for Roberts — initially named to take retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat — were to begin tomorrow; now the proceedings will go forward with a different focus — and an increased sense of urgency and danger for the opposition.
The New York Times reports that prior to Rehnquist’s passing, Senate Democrats had worked toward securing a delay:
“Out of respect for the memory of Chief Justice Rehnquist and in fairness to those whose lives continue to be devastated by Katrina, the Senate should not commence a Supreme Court confirmation hearing this Tuesday,” the Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, said in a statement Sunday afternoon. “A brief postponement will not disadvantage anyone.”
But Republicans, sensing the Roberts confirmation within their grasp, initially resisted, saying opponents were seeking to drag out the confirmation with hopes of derailing it. They argued that Chief Justice Rehnquist, who once kept the court open during a blizzard that shut down every other government building in Washington, would want the hearings for Judge Roberts to go on.
For conservative backers of Judge Roberts, any delay poses a danger, giving opponents more time to raise questions and mount opposition. Even Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, the only member of the Judiciary Committee representing a hurricane-affected state, said there was no need to postpone. …
A spokesman for Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said only that a postponement was “under consideration” and would depend largely on funeral arrangements for the chief justice.
Speculation was high that Roberts would receive tough questioning in his hearing, but ultimately would win confirmation as associate justice. That Shrubbie now wants him, a veteran of a mere two years on the federal appeals bench, for the top post — and reportedly was planning already to elevate Roberts to chief justice upon Rehnquist’s retirement or death — raises the stakes for the opposition.
As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told the Times, “If the White House wants to elevate him to an even higher position as chief justice, I think it’s a higher standard of inquiry.
Meanwhile, the court now needs a new nomination for Justice O’Connor’s seat. That means we should prepare to see one of the usual right-wing judicial suspects named: Alberto Gonzales; the Ediths, Clement and Jones; J. Michael Luttig; or J. Harvie Wilkinson III, despite vehement disapproval and downright terror on the political left, just may wind up with a lifetime job on the bench anyway.
If the planned elevation of a young, frighteningly conservative judicial-bench novice to serve as chief of the highest court in the land doesn’t qualify as reason for Senate Democrats to launch a no-holds-barred filibuster, nothing does. This Shrubite move is partisan politics at its most Machiavellian.Let’s hope the opposition has the stomach and the stones for an all-out brawl. The future of justice in this country for the next 30 years is at risk.