The rumor around Washington — originating from undetermined sources some time around the beginning of 2006 — is that Justice John Paul Stevens wants to be replaced by a Republican President, just as he was appointed by one, Gerald Ford. Stevens, a consistent liberal voice and vote on the high court, was also rumored to have wanted to step down after the 2006 election, so as to avoid making his replacement into a political issue. Although there is no way to determine whether Stevens actually intends to retire, it is not unlikely that one of the nine justices will in the next two years.
President Bush may appear hamstrung by the 51-member majority that Democrats will enjoy in the new Senate, but if he wishes, he can take his cue from incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Reid, himself a former trial lawyer, gave Bush an opening in June of 2005 when he discussed with reporters the possibility of replacing a justice with a sitting or retired senator. Reid mentioned three senators who come from the trial-lawyer industry.
“We have had approximately 10 members of the Supreme Court that come from the United States Senate over the years,” Reid said in June 2005. “There are people who serve in the Senate now, who are Republicans, who I think would be outstanding Supreme Court members.” Reid named three Republican senators: Mike DeWine (Ohio), Mel Martinez (Fla.) and Mike Crapo (Idaho). A South Carolina newspaper reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also received his imprimatur.
Yup, Reid said these things in June of last year (Tim Grieve also had this last year at Salon’s War Room, which requires a free day pass), and this none-too-happy Talk Lefter notes the additional recommendation of Graham in an excerpt of a Yahoo! News link that isn’t there any more. That same post excerpts another dead link where Graham apparently said he wasn’t interested.
Novak goes on to say that Martinez would now be a tough sell now because he heads the Republican National Committee.
It seems like an Emily Litella “never mind” act by Reid on three Senate colleagues (Crapo, DeWine, Graham) would be tough to finesse — not that he won’t be under immense pressure, if it comes to that, to try. Given his party’s thin Senate majority, and the prospect of some kind of filibuster by members of his own party over people he is on the record as approving of, the plot certainly has thickened.