This automatically gives President Obama the opportunity to appoint another Supreme Court Justice. Via MSNBC:
Stevens was able to draw the support of the court’s swing votes, now-retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Anthony Kennedy, to rein in or block some Bush administration policies, including the detention of suspected terrorists following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, its tilt toward protecting businesses from some lawsuits and its refusal to act against global warming.
Many progressives have been arguing that Obama needs to appoint someone that is to the left of Sonia Sotomayor, if the balance of the court is to be kept in check (the court is currently tilted to the conservative right, even with Stevens currently in the court). This is specially significant in light of the aftermath of the disastrous recent Supreme Court decision (which was favored by the conservative members) on the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case that opened up American political candidates’ campaigns to the control of foreign corporate or rogue powers (like God forbid, Osama Bin Laden).
Update: let the speculation regarding who will replace Stevens begin! MSNBC is mentioning, among other women, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolatino. This would be particularly, shall we say, interesting, being that Napolitano has had a mixed record on immigration. While she has been a pioneer in the way we talk about immigration: she’s in fact admitted (much to the uproar of the right-wing) that coming into the country with no documentation is in fact, NOT a criminal offense but rather a civil offense, she has also been slow to fix or unwilling to do something about how ICE continues to terrorize and put into privatized detention centers (under terrible conditions) members of the Latino and other immigrant communities. Another interesting choice would be current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which surprisingly is not getting a lot of attention in the media: many have been arguing that it would be nearly impossible for Republican Senators to fillibuster her nomination. This approach would also correct the situation of someone that was passed over and reportedly wanted the post of Secretary of State: John Kerry. Paradoxically, that would endanger his Senate seat if he were to no longer run for re-election and instead shift to the post of Secretary of State.
Update #2: with all this hooplah about who is going to be Stevens’ replacement, please don’t forget to thank him for all of the work he did for the American people on the Supreme Court. Visit this site to sign the thank-you petition.
Update #3: here’s a video doing a good summary of what a progressive icon John Paul Stevens actually was:
Update #4: looks like the Republican strategy is trying to delay the confirmation vote of the next Supreme Court Justice until after the November elections since they expect to pick up seats in the Senate. Their talking point seems to be “Obama and Stevens ought to postpone bringing someone new in this election cycle climate because it will only create more congressional gridlock.” It seems that they realize that the sooner an actual vote for confirmation takes place, the better chances of Obama’s new Supreme Court Justice nominee being confirmed.
Update #5: watch President Obama’s remarks about Stevens retiring and on how he plans on moving forward to fill the vacancy.