Rehnquist In Hospital Due To Fever
Each day, it seems, we are closer and closer to getting an annoucement about a second Supreme Court vacancy — as this latest news about Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist further attests:
WASHINGTON – Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, ailing with cancer, has been hospitalized with a fever, spurring more retirement speculation about the 33-year veteran of the Supreme Court.
The 80-year-old Rehnquist was taken by ambulance to Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday night and was admitted for observation and tests, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.
There was no immediate word on his condition Wednesday afternoon. President Bush was unaware of Rehnquist’s hospitalization until it was publicly announced….
CBS adds this analysis on what this could mean:
Addressing the retirement speculation, Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts notes that having a second spot to fill on the bench might make it easier for Mr. Bush.
“Having to fill two positions gives the President latitude to expand his horizons,” says Roberts.
“Simply replacing Sandra Day O’Connor presents a host of complications for the President – does he name a conservative and provoke a fight with Democrats, or does he name a moderate and provoke a fight with his own party’s right wing? Either choice will be problematic. It’s no secret that President Bush would love to put his long time friend Alberto Gonzales on the court – but conservatives have branded him ‘unacceptable’.”
Once scenario, Roberts suggests, might be the president nominates Alberto Gonzales to fill O’Connor’s position. Liberals are satisfied, but conservatives angry.
The President then chooses a known conservative like J. Michael Luttig to fill the vacancy left by Rehnquist – but only as an associate justice.
Because he nominates Antonin Scalia for chief justice. Conservatives are happy again.
Of course, that means three confirmation battles before the first Monday in October, Roberts notes. Is that a political gamble President Bush would want to risk?
Rehnquist’s future has been the subject of intense speculation since he announced in October that he had thyroid cancer. He has said very little publicly about his prognosis and nothing about his future at the court.
Sen. Arlen Specter who has a type of cancer involving the lymph nodes, said doctors “take extensive precautions with cancer patients who have elevated symptoms.” Specter, R-Pa., is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, 75, announced earlier this month that she was stepping down, giving the court its first vacancy in 11 years. The uncertainty about whether there will be a second vacancy has complicated the administration’s efforts to choose a replacement for O’Connor.