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Supreme Court Justice Stevens to retire; Is Klobuchar really on short-list?

Several publications have mentioned Sen. Amy Klobuchar as a short-list candidate to fill the next vacancy on the Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON — Several publications have mentioned Sen. Amy Klobuchar as a short-list candidate to fill the next vacancy on the Supreme Court. Now we’ll find out if that’s true— Justice John Paul Stevens, the eldest justice and leader of the Court’s liberal bloc, has told the president he intends to retire this summer.

Quick points on this, which will be followed up on many times over the coming days, weeks and months:

  • Stevens leads the liberal bloc despite being appointed by President Ford (a Republican). Politically, the Court is seen to tilt slightly to the right, with four on the left, four on the right and one (Anthony Kennedy) in the center-right.
  • The person President Obama nominates as Stevens’ replacement is unlikely to change that balance.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been mentioned on various media short-lists to fill that vacancy, though she’s not believed to be among the top tier.
  • In fact, National Journal put out a short list this morning (before the retirement was made known) that included Klobuchar in its “other possibilities” category. She’s said in recent weeks that she’s happy with the job that she has.
  • A knock on Klobuchar’s candidacy that has nothing to do with her: The White House might not want to risk losing a Democratic seat in the Senate by way of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointing her replacement.
  • Whether she’s nominated or not, Minnesotans will play a huge role in the confirmation process. Both Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which vets candidates before they go to the full Senate.
  • Don’t forget: This is an election year. Recent battles haven’t centered on qualifications, but on whether a nominee is “too far” to the left or right. The Senate is more polarized today than it has been in recent memory. Democrats no longer have a filibuster-proof majority.

Will have much more on this as it develops.