The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he's hoping for a "thoughtful and civil discourse" while considering a successor for Justice John Paul Stevens, and the Senate's top Republican said his party will make a "sustained and vigorous case for judicial restraint."
Those are the earliest, official words today from senators who will decide whether to confirm President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Stevens, who announced his retirement today.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who as Judiciary Committee chairman will oversee the nominee’s confirmation hearing, said he expects Obama to consult with senators from both major parties as he weighs the vacancy. Last year, Obama spoke with all members of the Judiciary Committee before announcing Justice Sonia Sotomayor as his pick to succeed Justice David Souter.
“The decisions of the Supreme Court are often made by only five individuals, but they impact the daily lives of each and every American,” Leahy said in a statement. “All Senators should strive to fulfill their constitutional duty of advise and consent, and give fair and thorough consideration to Justice Stevens’ successor.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised Stevens’ “legendary vigor” and said “it seems highly likely that he could have shattered the record for longest-serving Supreme Court justice if he had wanted to.”
“Even if Justice Stevens’ liberalism has led to many decisions I oppose,” McConnell said, “I respect his devotion to the institution and the gentlemanly manner in which he always carried out his work.”
Leahy and McConnell highlighted similar aspects of the retiring justice’s long career, including Stevens’ service as an intelligence officer during World War II, as a corruption-fighting investigator in Illinois, and as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Stevens’ nomination in 1975 was the first that Leahy considered after winning election in 1974.