As Supreme Court Term Ends, Rehnquist Retirement Rumors Begin

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 23, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

As Supreme Court Term Ends, Rehnquist Retirement Rumors Begin Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 23, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Whether Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist will be or not be a member of the nation’s high court after the Supreme Court term ends is the question. The Washington rumor mill is hitting high gear and groups on both sides of the abortion debate are lining up for what may be the biggest political battle outside of the presidential election.

Top Bush administration officials are already interviewing potential nominees with the expectation that Rehnquist may step down as early as next week.

White House officials and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who helped the president come up with dozens of pro-life nominees for appeals and district courts, are vetting the possible selections.

Bush has said he would like to name the first Hispanic to the nation’s top court and several pro-life nominees have been mentioned as possibilities, including Samuel Alito, a federal appeals court judge in Philadelphia.

One White House official told the Chicago Tribune the president would like to be able to quickly name a judge, but is also "serious about being respectful to the chief [justice]" and won’t move too quickly.

However, Rehnquist may not retire.

Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly told law clerks that Rehnquist’s health has improved Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, predicts Rehnquist will not yet step down.

Meanwhile, a White House spokesman Thursday said President Bush will consult with members of the Senate, including Democrats, on a nominee.

Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said the president was not planning to give Senate Democrats veto power over a Supreme Court pick, but would take their suggestions into consideration.

"When it comes to judicial nominees, we have consulted with the Senate on nominations. And I would expect if there were a Supreme Court nominee, the president would listen to members of the Senate," he explained.

Senate Democrats sent a letter to Bush on Thursday, saying, "We sincerely hope that you will consult meaningfully with senators on both sides of the aisle well in advance, especially in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy."

They cited a bipartisan agreement reached by seven Democrats and seven Republicans that put off a potentially intense vote on whether change Senate rules regarding filibusters. The deal allowed votes on a handful of Bush’s top pro-life picks for federal appeals courts.

However, there is no guarantee the deal will last when it comes time to confirm a nominee for the Supreme Court.