Senators Mentioned As Possible Justices
By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer 32
WASHINGTON - If there is a Supreme Court vacancy this
summer, President Bush may look no farther than the
Capitol for a member of Congress who can be confirmed
quickly. Past presidents have done it, more than two
While admittedly long shots, GOP Sens. Jon Kyl of
Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas are being talked up
by some conservatives as possible nominees for the
Seen as most likely to step down is Chief Justice
William Rehnquist, who at 80 is fighting cancer.
Retirement also might be attractive option for
Sandra Day O'Connor, 75, and John Paul Stevens, 85.
Kyl is a stalwart pro-business conservative and a
senior member of the Senate
Judiciary Committee. Cornyn is a former Texas Supreme
Court justice and state attorney general. Both men
have been at the forefront in fighting Democratic
filibusters against Bush's federal appeals court
Like all potential Supreme Court nominees most lists
of would-be candidates have at least 10 judges,
lawyers or lawmakers the senators played down their
"If I was on the president's short list, I think I
would have heard about it by now," Kyl said with a
Cornyn said, "It's flattering, but I like my current
job and I'm not looking for another one."
Twenty-six men who served in Congress 10 only in the
Senate, 12 only in the House and four in both chambers
later joined the Supreme Court. The revolving door
has turned the other way only once: David Davis
resigned from the court in 1877 to represent Illinois
in the Senate as an independent.
Bush has looked to Congress when filling federal court
He picked Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., for the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Cox
withdrew after California's two Democratic senators
opposed him. He is now awaiting confirmation to head
Securities and Exchange Commission.
Outsiders agree that Kyl and Cornyn are less likely to
be selected by Bush for a Supreme Court vacancy if
Rehnquist is the first to retire.
"I would be very surprised to see a Republican senator
nominated to replace Rehnquist," said Sean Rushton of
the conservative Committee for Justice. "It would make
more sense to nominate a Republican senator like
Cornyn to replace Sandra Day O'Connor or John Paul
The president would be expected to replace Rehnquist
with a non-Washington conservative because senators
know that pick will not change the court's ideological
balance, Rushton said.
But if O'Connor or Stevens leaves, Bush could swing
the court further to the right by picking either Kyl
or Cornyn. Both senators are considered more
conservative than O'Connor and Stevens.
They both also have the advantage of being members of
"the club." The Senate has never rejected one of its
own for the high court.
Senators have just emerged from a partisan deadlock
over Bush's picks for appeals courts. Choosing a
conservative senator might be attractive because of
"senatorial courtesy" the idea that senators will
not be overly harsh to one of their own during the
The downside is that, for a time, the Republicans'
55-vote majority could shrink if Kyl is a nominee.
Arizona's Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano,
probably would appoint a Democrat to replace him until
the 2006 election.
Of course, senatorial courtesy is never a guarantee.
Cornyn, for example, might find himself having to
explain comments he made after several violent attacks
on judges this year. He said he wondered whether
frustration against perceived political decisions by
judges "builds up and builds up to the point where
some people engage in violence, certainly without any
Critics said his comments could incite violence
against judges and the remarks could come back to
Several years ago, former GOP Sen. Jesse Helms of
North Carolina tried his best to scuttle former
Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley Braun's nomination as
ambassador to New Zealand, until Republican leaders
made it clear they would not let him.
John Ashcroft, R-Mo., had a hard time getting past
Democratic senators to become Bush's first attorney
general. The Senate voted to confirm him 58-42, the
narrowest margin ever for an attorney general.
On the Net:
Sen. Jon Kyl: http://kyl.senate.gov
Sen. John Cornyn: http://cornyn.senate.gov